Police in Quebec City have been accused of firing tear gas at a protester from near-point-blank range during an anti-austerity rally on Thursday night.
In footage aired by Canadian media, an officer could be seen firing tear gas directly at the protester’s face from a distance of around two meters. As the protester reeled backwards, a second officer approached her and began spraying her with what appeared to be tear gas. Footage from the Huffington Post showed at least two other protesters fired at with tear gas guns.
The protester, 18 year old student Naomie Trudeau-Tremblay has said she was briefly treated in hospital for injuries to the face.
“I was gasping for air … I lost consciousness,” she told CBC news. The family says they will press charges against the officer responsible.
A police spokesperson has defended the use of teargas, arguing protesters charged police lines. However, the Huffington Post footage showed protesters slowly approaching police while chanting.
Once the clashes did start, student protest group ASSE argued the police used disproportionate force to disperse demonstrators. They also allege police boxed protesters in after deploying tear gas.
ASSE has been leading student protests against Quebec's austerity budget, which they say is hanging students out to dry.
Under the budget, education will receive a funding increase of 0.2 percent – well below inflation.
The budget has sparked a wave of demonstrations already being compared to the 2012 student protests. At their height, the 2012 protests brought nearly a quarter of a million people to the streets to demand the government abandon planned increases to tuition fees. That April, half of Quebec's student population went on strike.