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Denis Lessard May 30 2012, 5:45PM
PHOTO CAPTION: UN insider worries that the “fines imposed by law 78, up to 125 000$, are disproportionate and can discourage students from exercising their rights of peaceful assembly.
(Quebec City) Today, two independent experts on issues of freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and of opinion and expression from the United Nations have shared their preoccupations regarding the acts of violence committed in Quebec during the May 24th protests that led to the detention of 700 protesters, as indicated by a UN press release sent Wednesday.
These observers “urged the federal and provincial governments of Canada and Quebec to fully respect the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, expression and association of students affected”, the UN maintains in its release. For over four months now, students have been protesting in Montreal and throughout Quebec to challenge a rise in tuition fees deemed “abusive and unjustifiable”, the UN envoy explains.
The UN’s special rapporteur has contacted the government, “which has promised it will clarify these issues.”
“The recently adopted legislation unduly restricts students’ rights to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly”, warned UN rapporteur Maina Kiai. “It is regrettable that the authorities have resorted to a restrictive approach, rather than seeking dialogue and mediation to resolve the current situation.”
Kiai underlines that law 78 “shifts the burden of proof [to] student associations, and thus unduly interferes with freedom of association.”
Also, in his view, “the fines imposed in the law of up to 125,000 Canadian dollars (122,000 US$ approx.) are disproportionate and may deter students from exercising their right to freedom of peaceful assembly.”
The UN observers claims that “while it is legitimate for the authorities to be informed of the itinerary of a demonstration to protect protesters, it is crucial that this prerogative is not misused to restrict the legitimate right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” added Mr Kiai.
In Frank La Rue’s opinion, also a UN rapporteur on fundamental freedoms, “peaceful assemblies constitute a form of expression, a way to collectively express legitimate grievances.” In light of this, protesters should have the right to “wear clothing of their choosing at such events, as long as it does not harm the rights of others”.
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.