|Protesting students face off with police during a protest in Montreal's downtown, June 9, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/STEEVE DUGUAY)
MONTREAL — Taxpayers doled out $1.5 million this year to keep striking Quebec students from ransacking schools and attacking riot police and even each other.
Obtained under the provincial Access to Information law, the data reveals the hefty bill tallied by universities and colleges to secure buildings and supervise tense student assemblies.
Security costs at the University of Quebec in Montreal, targeted by several violent protests, topped $841,000.
The University of Montreal turned in the second highest bill, at more than $151,000.
Students have been on strike since February to protest a $1,800 tuition hike over seven years.
Several demonstrations have turned violent as vandals ransacked schools and occupied classrooms. More than 2,500 people have been arrested, mainly in Montreal.
Student groups exacerbated the problem by insisting on open voting rather than secret ballots.
Some students who voted against strike action complained they were sometimes shouted down, or worse.
"When there was mayhem and vandalism, it quickly raised the level of security," University of Montreal spokeswoman Sophie Langlois said. "At general meetings, there were sometimes demonstrations and shoving."
Herve Pilon, director of Andre-Laurendeau community college in west-end Montreal, said the province will have to cover his school's $62,083 security bill.
"We don't have the budget to pay," he said "It's unfortunate, but we have no choice."
Premier Jean Charest passed a special law in the spring that suspended the semester until August to ease pressure on 25 Montreal-area schools that had been hit by daily blockades and occasional rampages.
Pilon said the delayed semester will add to his school's costs.
"Our laboratory technicians...will return to work earlier," he said. "We don't have the budget for that."
The main community college in Sherbrooke, in the Eastern Townships, paid more than $71,000 to hire security guards.
Some came from as far away as Montreal, equipment director Jean Lussier said.
"We have six buildings on our campus," he said. "There were 40 doors to secure in all. It took at least as many security guards."
At the height of the student strike, about 30% of Quebec students boycotted classes.