This is an opinion piece written by JFCY PLE Team volunteer, Cemone Morlese. It does not reflect the ideas or opinions of JFCY as a whole.
The student protest in Quebec started months ago over government legislation raising tuition fees for university students. Daily gatherings of thousands caught international attention, but a new law attempting to control these gatherings turned this protest over tuition into a fight over the constitutional rights of Canadian citizens.
Bill 78 was passed into law on May 18, 2012 by the Quebec government in order to control the protests. The controversy stems from one main issue. The law has strict guidelines on where and how many people can protest at any given time. It states that the police must be informed with a detailed itinerary of any public demonstrations involving more than 50 people at least eight hours in advance. Also, police have the right to order a protest to be moved to another location.
Many believe this is a clear violation of our fundamental rights and freedoms as Canadians to express ourselves and to protest peacefully. Supporters of the bill argue that implementing it was necessary due to the increasing violence and property damage that was taking place during the strike. Some students who were still trying to attend school were being either verbally harassed or physically blocked from entering by protesters. This bill makes those actions an offence, punishable with a fine.
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I think this law was not needed in order to maintain the safety of the public. Yes, acts of violence were being committed by some protesters, but clearly this small minority was involved in the movement only to cause trouble. They are committing offences and should be punished; however all the protesters should not have to suffer by being forced to abide to this unnecessary law.
The restrictions this law puts in place are unrealistic in today’s society. With the speed of the media and technology, organizing rallies or protests can quickly grow beyond the estimated number of people. This now becomes a crime with Bill 78 if the number is over 50, even if you only expected 20.
The police can utilize the same technology used to organize these events (Facebook, Twitter) to find about them and decide whether or not they need to send personnel to ensure the events stays under control. One of the main reasons for the protest is to draw attention from the public to what is going on, so it won’t be a secret when and where any protests are taking place and the police will be able to prepare for them.
The only good points that come from this law are that students who still want to attend school will not be intimidated or physically stopped from doing so. Other than that, I believe this law is simply diverting attention away from the real issue: the inability of both sides to come to an agreement about the tuition hike.
On June 27, an attempt by Quebec students to get an emergency injunction suspending six sections of the law was rejected by the Quebec Supreme Court. A full court challenge is expected to be heard later this summer or fall.
To view Bill 78 click here.
For more information, check out these articles about the Quebec student strike:
This opinion piece was written by Cemone Morlese, a student at York U and a volunteer member JFCY’s PLE Team. It does not reflect the opinions or ideas of JFCY as a whole.