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Student protests spill over into Grand Prix weekend in Montreal

Protesters surround a car trying to drive past them as they try to disrupt the opening party for the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on Thursday. About three dozen were arrested. The protests began months ago over a tuition increase.
Protesters surround a car trying to drive past them as they try to disrupt the opening party for the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal on Thursday. About three dozen were arrested. The protests began months ago over a tuition increase.
Published Jun. 9, 2012

"Go back to school," Canadian racing legend Jacques Villeneuve told protesting Quebec students trying to disrupt this weekend's Grand Prix in Montreal.

The Formula 1 races that attract 300,000 people and up to $90 million in revenues to Montreal are a target for the coalition of radical students opposing university tuition-fee increases.

Police clashed with protesters — in their fourth month of a strike and now-daily rallies — trying to disrupt the opening Grand Prix red-carpet event when 37 people were arrested.

Villeneuve told reporters the student movement has been damaging to Quebec society and "makes no sense."

Student protesters, now joined by those opposed to the "practices of global capitalism," want people to jam the subway line going to the island in the St. Lawrence River where the big race is held today.

One event was canceled earlier: an open house in the pit area to view the cars and meet with drivers and mechanics.

"When you attack the Grand Prix, you're not attacking the government of Quebec but all Quebecers," Premier Jean Charest said, appealing for calm.

The government wants to raise tuition fees from the lowest in Canada by about $254 a year over seven years to $3,800 a year.

Central bank holds line on interest rate

Canada's central bank continues to caution that interest rates will someday start rising, but not right now.

The Bank of Canada softened its hawkish language after deterioration in global financial conditions in Europe, while keeping its key rate at 1 percent.

After saying last month a "modest increase" might be coming by fall, the bank now says when conditions are right, "some modest withdrawal of the present considerable monetary policy stimulus may become appropriate."

The bank noted that while momentum in the Canadian economy continues largely on track, the global growth outlook has weakened.

News in brief

• A shooting involving gang members left one man dead and seven injured at a crowded food court at the Toronto Eaton Center. Christopher Husbands, 23, was charged with murder and six counts of attempted murder. Ahmed Hassan, 24, died of gunshot wounds, while another man with him was wounded. A 13-year-old boy was also shot in the head by a stray bullet and is recovering in a hospital.

• An Ontario court has ruled the law requiring trucks to have speed limiters is unconstitutional. Justice of the Peace Brett Kelly said the devices limiting trucks to 65 mph jeopardizes the safety of truckers and other drivers. "Inability to accelerate, or not accelerate, fully places a driver in a less-than-safe situation," Kelly said. An appeal is being considered by the Ontario government.

Facts and figures

The Canadian unemployment rate remained steady last month at 7.3 percent as the economy added only 7,700 jobs compared with 140,000 in March and April.

Canada's dollar rose to 97.22 cents in U.S. funds Friday while the U.S. dollar was worth $1.0285 Canadian, before bank exchange fees.

The Bank of Canada's key interest rate remains at 1 percent while the prime-lending rate is 3 percent.

Stock markets are higher, with the Toronto exchange index at 11,542 points and the TSX Venture index 1,290 points.

Lotto 6-49: (June 6) 8, 21, 22, 26, 30 and 39; bonus 7. (June 2) 7, 22, 27, 29,33 and 39; bonus 40. Lotto Max: (June 1) 4, 7, 13, 24, 26, 27 and 43; bonus 41.

Regional briefs

• There's a "major environmental concern" near Sundre, Alberta, after up to 125,000 gallons of crude oil spilled from a pipeline into a tributary of the Red Deer River. Plains Midstream Canada shut its network of pipelines in the pristine wilderness area after discovering the spill. The company is still cleaning up a spill of 1.02 million litres of oil last year near Peace River, Alberta.

• In a surprise move, Toronto's city council has voted to ban plastic bags given out at stores effective Jan. 1. The council had been debating ending the 5-cent bag fee, to happen July 1, when by a 24-20 vote it decided to prohibit stores from providing customers with any single-use plastic bags.

Jim Fox can be reached at canadareport@hotmail.com.