Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Loi 78 - Loi permettant aux étudiants de recevoir l’enseignement dispensé par les établissements de niveau postsecondaire qu'ils fréquentent

Loi 78 (aka Bill 78) is a new law in Quebec that would restrict the right of people to organize demonstrations.   The law expires on Canada Day in 2013.  As far as I can see this law would have been Duplessis's wet dream.  

The law suspends classes at 11 universities and 14 CEGEPs.

The law stops any or all demonstrations by supporters of the strike if they are on or near universities and CEGEPs in Quebec.  This law is almost like a government imposed cooling off period in a strike/lockout and while I do not like those sort of laws, there is a lot of precedence for it in Canada.

The law also requires anyone organizing a demonstration of more than 50 people to get approval from the police.   The law would initially have required it for 10 people.   The police need to be informed at least eight hours beforehand and can veto the location or route of the demonstration based on "serious risks to public security".   It is this provision that concerns me.

It has been a very long time since Canada has seen any province try to enact a law like this.  In the past laws like this were used by the governments to "stop the reds". Similar laws were used a lot between the wars in Canada to effectively make any organized political protest from the left illegal.   I am not sure when the last of these laws was struck in Canada, but I can not think of any use of something like this since the 1960s.

I am trying to figure out how a Quebec can pass this sort of law and expect it to be constitutional?   The old laws were all created not only before Canada has a modern constitution, but before the 1960 Canadian Bill of Rights which set the stage of basic human rights in Canada.

As it is written, the police could easily require changes over and over again to stop any demonstration.  

The law also requires the organizer of any demonstration to ensure people assembly at the agreed place and time.  It also makes student associations that take part in a demonstration equally liable for the actions of people at the demonstration as whomever is the organizer.

It is a stupid law.  It is unenforceable because I fail to see how the courts could make this stick.  The political fall out of arresting young people and  trying to impose huge fines on them is huge.   The fines are utterly and completely out of line with the type "crime" that this is.

I am trying to figure out how the government thinks this law is going to reduce the scope and scale of the protests.   As far as I can see it is giving a new life to the protests.   I am also certain that is motivating a lot of people to actively work towards the defeat of the Liberal government and will make the typical supporters of the Liberals choose to sit out of this election.

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