Quebec’s legislature, shaken by the province’s ongoing student strike, is now debating passage of an emergency anti-protest law that the chair of the Quebec bar association calls “a breach to the fundamental, constitutional rights” of its citizens.
The legislation, known as Bill 78, would mandate an end to the strike, impose extraordinary restrictions on demonstrations and impel local student associations to prevent their members from engaging in illegal protest. It would impose harsh fines for violations of provisions one legal experts say “are written so vaguely they’re impossible to respect,” while threatening student activists with the dissolution of their student unions in the case of non-compliance.
- All classes at campuses currently participating in the student strike will be immediately suspended, with the remainder of the spring semester delayed until August.
- It would become a crime for an individual or organization to “directly or indirectly contribute” to the blocking of a campus, with those terms left undefined in the bill. Organizations would be held responsible for the actions of their members in this regard, whether those members were acting with organizational sanction or not.
- Student associations and federations would be required to “employ appropriate means to induce” their members to comply with the law.
- Student associations and regional federations that violated the law would have their funding and use of campus facilities cut for one semester for each day of campus closure.
- Campuses whose student associations were shuttered under this provision would not be permitted to establish interim associations while the suspensions were in place.
- “Any form of gathering that could result” in an interference with the functioning of a college would be banned at all campuses, and for a 50-meter radius surrounding them.
- Organizers of any demonstration larger than ten people would be required to submit the time, location, duration, and other information to the police eight hours in advance. The police would have the authority to amend any of the proposed parameters.
- Organizers of such demonstrations would be held criminally liable if the demonstrators deviated from police-approved parameters, as would associations participating in such demonstrations, even if they were not the organizers.
- Students who violated the act could be fined as much as $5,000. Representatives of student groups that did so could face personal fines of as much as $35,000. Organizations violating the act could face fines of up to $125,000.All such fines would be doubled for subsequent offenses.