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Lisa-Marie Gervais May 26, 2012
One week after it was adopted, the Charest government’s loi spécial (special law) is before the courts. The student organizations, in conjunction with unions, professors and community organizations, have filed two applications, the first to suspend Law 78 as soon as possible, and the second to contest the law under the Canadian and Quebec Charters of Rights and Freedoms.
The first application should be heard next Wednesday [May 30 - trans. not: this has not been changed to Friday, June 1]. The second will be heard in June. This is an historic contestation, the students believe. “Certainly, this will be the biggest constitutional case in the history of Quebec, notable for the number of plaintiffs and the number of people it concerns,” declared Léo Bureau-Blouin, president of the Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec* (FECQ), adding that 1.5 million Quebec citizens are directly involved in this filing. The application is formulated by more than 140 plaintiffs from more than 70 organizations of all stripes, including the Union des artistes*.
According to CLASSE co-spokesperson Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, the law is “illegitimate” and “a threat to freedom.” “It’s a made-to-order law designed to destroy the [student] associations, particularly the most combative among them,” he laments. “A single fine could empty the associations’ coffers,” he added, referring to fines which can run as high as $125,000.
For Bureau-Blouin, it is important to act quickly, because the law is already harmful to people who want to protest, for example by joining the “casseroles” marches. “There’s no big screen flashing whether the protest has provided a route and obtained City authorization. If I’m a citizen and I want to join, I could be subject to significant fines without even knowing it,” he explained.
The students stressed the fact that they are not alone in their fight against the tuition increases. “We are not alone in this, the population is behind the students. More than ever people want to take full advantage of their freedom of expression, their freedom of association and their right to protest peacefully. (…) The heart of the people of Quebec is on display,” underlined Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ).
Support has been huge and it is flowing in from all sides, she says. More than 200,000 citizens have signed a petition on loi78.com supporting the application to declare the law null and void. Meanwhile, 500 lawyers have expressed interest in working pro bono on the case. As much as $30,000 has been collected in donations, including contributions from unions elsewhere in Canada.
“We are convinced that many of these provisions are utterly unconstitutional and they will never be acceptable under articles 1 and 9.1 of the Canadian charter,” said former MP and MNA Daniel Turp. He believes the law goes too far when it gives the police corps control of “managing” the protests “with discretion.”
*FECQ is one of the principal student associations behind the strike, along with CLASSE & FECQ.
*UdA is the performers’ union in Quebec and French-speaking Canada.
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at email@example.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.