Human Rights commission slams Bill 78
Published Thursday, July 19, 2012 2:47PM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, July 19, 2012 9:01PM EDT
Quebec's Human Rights Commission is condemning emergency legislation passed this spring by the provincial government.
In a 56-page analysis the commission outlines all the events that led up to Bill 78, namely the regular anti-tuition protests some of which had turned violent, acts of vandalism committed at Ministry of Education offices, the refusal of many protesters to abide by court injunctions, and the gradual shrinking of the number of students on strike.
The emergency legislation imposes limits on protests, requiring any protest of more than 50 people to notify police eight hours in advance, and provides for fines of between $1,000 and $5,000 for any individual who prevents someone from entering an educational institution. Penalties climb to between $7,000 and $35,000 for a student leader and to between $25,000 and $125,000 for unions or student federations.
Looking at all this the HRC has come to the same conclusion as many other critics, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights; that the emergency law is a violation of human rights of freedom of assembly and expression.
The HRC also criticizes the harsh penalties incurred by individuals and associations for violating the law, or for encouraging others to violate the law.
The law is currently being fought in court, although so far judges have refused to repeal or restrict any aspect of Bill 78.
However it can be argued that the law has not had much of an effect on protests in Montreal, since it is up to police to enforce it.
In fact, the casseroles movement only began after Bill 78 came into effect.
Government defends emergency legislation
In a written statement, Public Security Minister Robert Dutil stood by the law, saying it was necessary in order to bring a halt to numerous violent protests.
"[This law] was adopted with the goal of permitting our young people to have access to their schools in a secure fashion. We were witnessing violent scenes that are not acceptable in a society such as ours," wrote Dutil.
The minister also pointed out that several judges have so far refused to impose any restrictions, even temporary ones, on the law.
Bill 78 is due to expire on July 1, 2013.