Why protest Bill 78?
Protesting has regained in strength and tenacity since Bill 78 was passed. Despite numerous calls from the opposition and notable civil society groups, the bill became law on Friday. Today’s planned protest will gather over 140 groups and organizations, with upwards of 300,000 people expected at 2pm at Place des Festivals to oppose the law and the Charest government’s tuition.
Much has been said in the past few days about the special law, allegedly adopted to ensure education accessibility to Québec students. Protesting has regained in strength and tenacity since Bill 78 was passed, despite numerous calls from the opposition and notable civil society groups such as the Québec Bar Association, the Gatineau Chamber of Commerce, the three federated trade unions CSN, CSQ and FTQ, to name only a prominent few.
Indeed, several sections of Bill 78 have been accused by columnists and jurists of maiming freedom of association and expression, and of instituting repression under the guise of guardianship. Some sections, such as section 14, which effectively prohibits obtrusive protesting in front of colleges, are in direct response to the aggressive strike enforcement student strategies. Others are wider and aim to effectively defang unions, such as section 15, which targets both student and trade unions, giving their leaders excessive responsibilities in policing their constituents and placing them between a rock and a hard place. Section 17, 22 and 23 create similar obligations to union leaders regarding their members’ participation in protests, and make them legally responsible for their members’ behavior. Similar to this, under Bill 78′s section 18, any student union voting a cessation of attendance would face the loss of institutional logistical support with collecting member contributions, with a ratio of one semester per striking day.
Other sections have a direct impact on every demo in the province, up to the end of the bill’s validity, set for July 1, 2013. One such section is section 16, whereby organizers must divulge the itinerary and modes of transportation for any public action engaging 50 participants or more. This problematic section presupposes both control of protester’s participation level and of their discipline. Moreover, the same section gives police departments arbitrary powers to edit said itinerary should they assess that it may endanger public safety, though no further criteria is included in the bill.
All of these sections come to us with stiff penalties in case of a breach, listed at section 26. These range from 1,000$ to 5,000$ per day for ordinary citizens, 7,000$ to 35,000$ for union leaders, and 25,000$ to 125,000$ for institutions. These fines may be doubled in the event of a second offense.
Some problematic sections were removed from the bill before it was passed, such as the heavily criticized former section 29. Section 29, proposed by Line Beauchamp’s successor Michelle Courchesne, created an offense which has been compared by some to Orwell’s “thoughtcrime” making inciting anyone to protest against Bill 78 illegal. The section has been replaced by section 30, according to which anyone actively supporting civil disobedience to Bill 78 would also be fined.
Since Friday, calls to disobey have been legion, and protests have regained in energy and determination, fueled both by anger and by the public announcement from La CLASSE that they would defy Bill 78 in a press conference held at Parc Émilie-Gamelin yesterday. Meanwhile, student federations FEUQ and FECQ have called on Québec’s magistrates to scrap the new law.
To join the federations’ collective suit to annul Bill 78: loi78.com
To support CLASSE’s call to civil disobedience: www.arretezmoiquelquun.com
Banner Photo by Edson Emilio Photography
Ariane Moffatt’s video and remake of her “17 mai” song with lyrics against Bill 78: