By McGill Reporter Staff
Education Minister and Deputy Premier Line Beauchamp dropped a bombshell on Monday, abruptly resigning from politics in the face of the ongoing student protest that appears to have no end in sight.
With Premier Jean Charest by her side at a press conference, Beauchamp made it clear she wasn’t leaving public office because of the increasingly acrimonious nature of the unrest that, in recent weeks, has seen protesters clash violently with police in Victoriaville and trigger smoke bombs in Montreal metro stations, effectively paralyzing down the entire system during last Thursday’s morning rush hour.
“I am not giving up in the face of vandalism and civil disobedience,” said Beauchamp, MNA for Montreal’s north-end Bourassa-Sauvé riding. “I am resigning because I no longer believe I’m part of the solution.”
“I was greatly disappointed to hear of Minister Beauchamp’s resignation,” said Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill. “First, I’d like to thank her for her commitment to serving Quebec over the past 14 years. But in particular, I’d like to commend her for her sincere and sustained efforts in trying to resolve the crisis that Quebec universities and CEGEPs are currently facing. She has shown courage and determination as a champion of quality higher education over these past few months. We continue to look forward to a resolution to the conflict and welcome back Michelle Courchesne to her former portfolio.”
Former Education Minister Michelle Courchesne has been brought back to serve in both the Education and Deputy Premier posts, while maintaining her job as President of the Treasury Board.
A central figure in the ongoing dispute, Beauchamp has been the target of death threats and personal insults, and her office has been repeatedly vandalized, most recently on April 13.
Students at some universities and CEGEPs are beginning their 14th week of a boycott of classes designed to pressure the Charest Liberals to withdraw a planned tuition hike of $1,778 over seven years, which is to begin this fall. Already the longest student protest in Canadian history, the dispute seems at a standstill, with students rejecting an agreement in principle that had been hammered out by Beauchamp and four student umbrella groups that agreed to many student demands.
“A student leader told me this morning that students don’t think that elected officials have the knowledge or the skills necessary to solve this problem,” said Beauchamp.
She accused student leaders of a lack of volition on their part to negotiate an end to the three-month dispute. “I have lost faith that student leaders wish to come to a meaningful conclusion.”
Earlier in the dispute, a number of McGill departments had voted in favour of the unlimited boycott. But, as the dispute dragged on and the winter semester was in jeopardy, students voted to return to classes and complete their final exams. Only graduate students in French literature and students in Gender, Sexuality and Feminist studies maintained their boycott until the end of classes and through exams.
Elsewhere, students’ semesters are at risk. Officials haven’t decided on an outright deadline after which the semester will be lost, but the threat of such a cancellation is looming. The delay is wreaking havoc with scheduling with summer terms having already been cancelled in order to give students the opportunity to finish the current semester should they go back to class.