Quebec considers emergency law as thousands of students protest tuition hikes

Quebec was set to consider emergency legislation Thursday aimed at calming weeks of student protests over rising tuition costs, after thousands took to the streets once again and more than 100 were arrested.

Authorities said 122 were arrested late Wednesday as thousands of demonstrators spilled into the streets of Montreal, with some smashing bank windows and hurling objects at police.

Legislation could be introduced as early as Thursday amid student strikes. Dozens of protesters on Wednesday stormed into one Montreal university for the first time, breaking up classes.

Premier Jean Charest said he would table emergency legislation aimed at ending the disorder, while sticking to the planned tuition hikes.

"It's time for calm to be restored," Charest said Wednesday. He added, "The current situation has lasted too long. ... Quebecers have a right to live in security."

Under the latest version of its tuition plan, the government would increase fees by $254 per year over seven years.

That would mean tuition increases of more than 75 percent for Quebec students, who pay the lowest rates in Canada.

The emergency legislation would temporarily stop the spring semester and push up the summer holidays.

The government also hinted at severe penalties for anyone who tries to picket or otherwise prevent students from entering classrooms.

The government has pointed out that a majority of students in Quebec have quietly finished their semester and aren't striking.

But thousands remain angry over the proposed tuition hikes.

"If there is violence, if there are serious injuries, Premier Jean Charest will have to carry the blame for the rest of his political career," said Leo Bureau-Blouin, one of the protesting student leaders.

The dispute has claimed the province's education minister, who announced her resignation from politics earlier this week.