QC Human Rights serves Charest a “slap in the face” over law 78
Québec’s Human Rights Commission (the CDPDJ) has released a communiqué roundly condemning the Charest government’s anti-strike law 78. In a 56-page brief published today, the Commission has deemed the law an affront to the principles of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Many hope that the brief will support a pending court challenge against the much-maligned law.
Law 78, aka the “Law allowing students to access education in post-secondary institutions that they are attending” was approved by all of the Liberal Party MNAs on May 18, 2012, ostensibly to ensure that non-striking students can access their classrooms undisturbed. Since the law passed, the CDPDJ (Commission des droits de la personne et de la jeunesse) has issued statements of “concern” with respect to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, adding to a chorus of criticisms from the Québec Bar Association, Amnesty International, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Based primarily on Supreme Court rulings (precedence), the Commission stated in their communiqué that “articles 12 to 31 of the Law infringe directly or indirectly on fundamental freedoms, namely freedom of conscience, opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and [freedom of] association guaranteed by the Charter.” The Commission’s damning statement further confirmed that the law’s stipulations “should thereby be declared inapplicable in the courts.”
A “slap in the face” to the Liberal government
The Human Rights Commission also criticizes the “broad and vague” phrasing of article 13, which forbids “obstructing the right of a student to access teaching offered by the institution that s/he attends.” The question of whether “obstructing” includes encouraging other students to picket raises a concern over the law’s infringement on fundamental freedoms.
Unsurprisingly, the Commission’s brief also questions the requirement in law 78 to provide advanced notice and an itinerary for any demonstration of over 50 people to the police. It further rejected 78′s absurd stipulation that student associations be responsible for demonstrators’ actions, which supposes a degree of control that the associations “do not have, either practically or legally.”
The CLASSE (Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante) reacted to the Commission’s statement, calling it essentially a “slap in the face to the Liberal government.” The group’s co-spokesman, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois said that the Commission’s opinion offers hope for the pending court challenge. “The CDPJ has sided with those who have mobilized to oppose this unjust law,” Nadeau-Dubois tweeted yesterday.
You can read the CDPDJ’s summary of its opinion (in French) here.