From the corporate media
MONTREAL — Student radicals are suspected in an act of vandalism with Biblical overtones after swarms of locusts overran the city’s main business school on Thursday.
Officials at the HEC school called in exterminators to fight the plague that came hours before Quebec offered its first olive branch in a 52-day student strike over tuition hikes.
Hundreds of locusts infested a classroom and two bathrooms at HEC around 8:30 a.m.
A letter left at the scene made a direct reference to the book of Exodus that recounts plagues that hit Egypt in biblical times.
“Pharaoh hardens his heart but justice is served,” read the note. “May it stain your walls and your air ducts.”
The insect infestation was one of two incidents at Quebec schools Thursday as thousands of students continue their protests against tuition hikes.
In Saguenay, 200 km north of Quebec City, a security guard suffered a dislocated shoulder in a scuffle with students who tried to occupy a campus building. A second guard suffered a knee injury.
Quebec students have blocked bridges, major roads and government buildings nearly every day since the strike began in February.
Premier Jean Charest has held firm on his decision to increase tuition fees by $1,625 over five years, but two top ministers pledged Thursday to sweeten student loan programs in an attempt to diffuse the demonstrations.
Education Minister Line Beauchamp and Finance Minister Raymond Bachand announced an income-based loan program that could take effect in September 2013.
The overture immediately divided student groups. The hardline CLASSE organization rejected the pledge, while the more moderate FECQ says it will discuss the offer over the Easter break.
Beauchamp told a news conference that student groups have so far refused to negotiate and that many young people risk losing an entire semester.
“The students are in a critical decision phase,” she said. “It was our responsibility to take action after having launched appeals for dialogue for several days.”
Bachand added, “We listened, we waited, and no one sat down with us to discuss this.”
Charest, meanwhile, said he hopes the striking students return to class.