Pupils stop traffic in protest

1st October 1999 at 01:00
HUNDREDS of high-school pupils have been arrested in Quebec after joining mass protests over cancelled after-school sport and band practices.

Montreal's traffic was thrown into chaos when spontaneous demonstrations swept the

Canadian province following a work-to-rule campaign by teachers pursuing a pay rise.

Senior pupils were arrested by riot police and fined $100 (pound;41.40), while the parents of younger pupils faced formal interviews with police, following several days of disruption.

Riot police arrested 450 out of the 1,000 Montreal pupils who abandoned their lessons, blocked arterial roads and closed major bridges. Further arrests were made in the town of Sherbrooke, 150km south-east of Montreal, where 4,000 pupils walked out of class, and there were arrests in the towns around the provincial capital, Quebec city.

The students have been angered by the cancellation of extra-curricular activities, including band, orchestra and sports practice, and school trips.

The Quebec teachers are working to rule as part of the Common Front public-sector campaign for a bigger pay rise. The provincial government has offered teachers and their Common Front partners (including nurses and provincial police) only a 1 per cent pay increase for each of the next three years.

Serge Meloch, deputy director of the Montreal Urban Community, urged schools to clamp down on the protesting pupils.

"It is important to note that these demonstrations are spontaneous and disorganised and this worries us," he said.

"We want school directors to take responsibility and tell the stu dents to stay in their classrooms. What the students are doing poses a danger to themselves and to pedestrians."

Police and school officials have appealed for students to find legal ways to air their concerns.

In contrast, students in this country were comparatively relaxed about the last major cancellation of after-school activities which took place during teachers' industrial action in the mid-1980s.

Many believe that the withdrawal of goodwill had a major effect on extra-curricular work which, it is said, has never fully recovered.

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