MONTREAL - Student leaders and the provincial government reached an agreement over tuition costs in principle on Saturday a day after violent protests left two men critically injured and one of them partially blind.
Government officials and labour union leaders said there was an "agreement," while student leaders were more cautious and called it "an offer," which will be brought to individual student associations for a vote.
The tentative agreement came after 22 hours of marathon negotiations which began Friday at 4 p.m. in Quebec City.
Tens of thousands of students have been on strike for more than 80 days since the government announced it was going to increase tuition by $1,625 or 75%.
Details of the agreement in principle were released Saturday night.
The deal includes cutting money from university budgets to offset the cost of tuition - which will still be increased.
Education Minister Line Beauchamp, who received death threats and had her Montreal offices vandalized during the conflict, said both sides compromised.
"The (student) associations will submit the agreement in principle to their members," she said, "and we hope that students will return to classes soon."
Martine Desjardins, head of a student federation representing striking university students, said "it's the beginning of the end of the conflict."
Students and their supporters staged hundreds of protests and other actions across the province since the strike began nearly three months ago. Some of the protests turned violent and local and provincial police made hundreds of arrests. However, the majority of the protests were peaceful.
Student leaders called the conflict the "Quebec Spring," as thousands of people flooded the province's city streets demanding change to a host of government policies.
The agreement in principle came during the governing Quebec Liberal Party's three-day policy convention in Victoriaville, Que., about 150 km east of Montreal. The convention ends Sunday.
Hundreds gathered outside the convention Friday night in what turned into one of the most aggressive and violent protests since the start of the strike.
More than 100 protesters were arrested Friday and two 20-year-old men were critically injured.
One man is under observation in hospital with head trauma. His face and skull is fractured and he suffers a cerebral contusion, according to hospital spokesman Serge Boulard.
The other young man is in stable condition but has lost the use of an eye. His face and skull is also fractured and he will need surgery, Boulard said.