Judge denies request for injunction limiting student protests
Published Friday, March 30, 2012 3:26PM EDT
Universite de Montreal law student wanted an injunction to stop protesters from disrupting his classes (March 29, 2012)
MONTREAL - A judge has rejected a motion by a law student who wanted to attend classes without being stopped by student protesters.
Guillaume Charette said Friday he wasn't surprised he didn't get the emergency injunction as it required very specific criteria to be granted.
The 25-year-old law and political science student, who pleaded the case himself, wanted to send a message by going to court.
"I was trying to provide minimal rights to students who want to be given access to their school, notwithstanding whether their faculty association voted for or against the strike,'' Charette said after the written decision was issued.
Students have taken to the streets in recent months to counter the Charest government's plan to nearly double tuition fees over five years, to $3,800 per year.
The government has said the hikes will still leave Quebec with among the lowest rates in the country. But students are against any increases at all, arguing they would deny accessibility.
Charette had to demonstrate an urgency in his application and prove he had suffered irreparable harm. In his affidavit, he mentioned he'd missed two days of class in the last week, including last Monday after a protest blocked access to the Universite de Montreal.
He filed a motion against the law students' association, the student union, the university and an umbrella group of student groups that is one of the main protest organizers.
Justice Luc Lefebvre ruled Charette failed on all counts for the injunction.
"As the applicant has lost but two days of classes and that there is no intention to cancel this semester, this tribunal finds that the applicant has not demonstrated the irreparable harm required for issuing an injunction at the provisional stage,'' Lefebvre wrote.
Broader question about right to attend class
Charette says his attempt failed because he wasn't able to prove the injunction was necessary.
But he argued there is still a broader legal question that needs to be answered as to whether a student union vote trumps an individual student's right to attend class without obstruction, harassment, intimidation or interruption.
"I believe that people's rights are more important than students' votes within an association inside a university,'' Charette said.
"It's wider than that _ we're talking about democracy and justice and people's rights and that's paramount.''
Amid the chorus of student outrage, a quieter contingent has spoken out in opposition to the strikes.
Some of these students say they have faced threats for opposing the protest movement. In his filing, Charette claimed he was roughed up while trying to attend a class this week.
"If one has to risk his personal well-being to access a service that he paid for and that is essential in democratic society, it seems to me the charter should allow that student to (attend),'' Charette said.
The student associations and groups that were targeted in the case were happy with the ruling, saying the issue did not belong before the courts.
"It only confirms what we said from the beginning _ the issue is much more political than legal,'' said Stephanie Tougas, the Universite de Montreal's student association secretary general.
A spokesman for one of the major student associations said there are other mechanisms to deal with these sorts of questions.
"This young man is in favour of the tuition increase, he is against the strike and he tried to use the justice system to prove his point,'' said Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois.
"The way to have a debate in a democratic movement like the student movement is to go (before) the general assemblies and not before a judge.''