Talks in Quebec student standoff to resume

Talks between students and the Quebec government aimed at resolving a months-long standoff over a proposed tuition hike that has sparked mass protests were to resume on Thursday.

Talks had appeared to be moving forward earlier in the week but a student leader, Martine Desjardins, said late Wednesday during a break in negotiations she was "disappointed" the government had not responded to student proposals.

Since February, hundreds of protesters have been arrested and clashes have erupted sporadically as more than 165,000 students have refused to attend class and tens of thousands have protested the planned increase in school fees.

On Wednesday some 200 people, many of them members of the Occupy Wall Street movement, demonstrated in New York City in support of the students, with some carrying a sign reading: "From Quebec to Mexico, the same road to austerity."

Mirroring the nightly demonstrations held across the French-speaking Canadian province, the New York protesters marched through Times Square banging pots and pans together before they were dispersed by police.

A police officer at the scene said two protesters were detained.

A tentative deal over tuition was reached after marathon talks a month ago but soon fell apart, and nightly protests in Montreal and other cities resumed.

Last week some 1,000 protesters were detained in some of the biggest mass arrests in the province's history, after the local government passed a law requiring that demonstrators notify police eight hours ahead of any protest.

This week's talks between Education Minister Michelle Courchesne and student leaders have been touted as a "last chance" to resolve the conflict before the start of summer festivals and other major tourist draws.

Courchesne was expected to put a new offer on the table, but will not likely budge on the start in September of the staggered increases in tuition fees at the province's universities.

The protests and boycott began in response to a government plan to raise annual university fees by 82 percent, or $1,700, with the increase gradually introduced over a period of several years.


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