As well, under the bill, any group of 10 persons or more would haveto give at least eight hours notice to police for anydemonstration, and must give the time, place and itinerary. Policemay change any of the above. The Opposition has been extremely critical of the bill, pounding onthe Charest government during the lengthy debate. Parti Qu b cois MNAs call the legislation completely unnecessary,draconian and a repression of the right to demonstrate and protest. Student leaders were also quick to denounce the bill soon afterdetails of legislation were released. |
"This is actually a declaration of war against the student movementand not only against the student movement, but it restricted theliberty of speech, the liberty of association," said MartineDesjardins of the university students' federation. MNAs are expected to vote on the new law later today. Challenge in the works Lawyers representing student organizations have been studying thelaw in detail and believe several provisions violate the Charter ofRights and Freedoms. Mathieu Huchete, a lawyer for the student groups, says therequirement that protests involving more than 10 people must firstbe reported to police is troubling.
"Now, the kinds of spontaneous, peaceful protests that peopleshould make will be illegal," he said. Banning protests from anywhere within 50 metres of universities orCEGEPs would effectively prevent any demonstrations from goingforward in downtown Montreal, where there is a cluster of campuses. St phane Beaulac, a constitutional expert at the University ofMontreal, called the law one of the most repressive he has everseen, but still thinks it could withstand a constitutionalchallenge. "On the face of it, it does not constitute in my view blatantinfringement of freedom of association, freedom of expression," hesaid. Student groups said they're prepared to mount the legal challengeas soon as the law is passed and they're asking citizens to addtheir names to it on the website loi78.com.
Protests grow Montreal's nightly student protests saw a swell in numbers lastnight as the national assembly went through the bill. As many as 4,000 took to the streets for the 24th consecutive nightof protests, calling the legislation anti-democratic. Thousands of students and supporters marched through the streets ofMontreal on Thursday in a peaceful protest. (Radio-Canada) Students say they have been re-energized by the government'slatest attempt to resolve the tuition battle. "Since he [Premier Jean Charest] did that, we're a lot morestudents in the streets and I think he's digging his own graveright now, " said demonstrator Maxime Vigeant.
Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois of the student group CLASSE said thegovernment knows full well the law will strip away students' rightto protest. He said that's precisely why the government is moving ahead withthe bill so quickly. "Even if we would try to go to the courthouse to try to make thislaw declared unconstitutional, we wouldn't have the time to do it,"he said. He said the bill won't stop students from taking out theirfrustration in the streets.
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