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NEWS: Repressive Bill 78 against the right to protest expected to pass by 10 am this morning

The Globe and Mail reports, “(The Charest government in Quebec) unveiled legislation (Bill 78) Thursday night that would crack down on protesters – and especially the student groups that endorse demonstrations.” The legislation is expected to be passed this morning before 10 am.

The Council of Canadians denounces this undemocratic and repressive legislation.

The legislation:
1- “bars demonstrations inside and within 50 metres of college and university buildings.”
2- “lays out strict regulations governing student protests. Any group of 10 persons or more to give at least eight hours notice to police for any demonstration. They must include the time, place and itinerary. Police may change any of the above.”
3- “(holds) any individual protester found guilty of an offence that forces the cancellation of classes…liable to a fine of $1,000 to $5,000. If the offence is committed by a senior officer or representative of a student group or federation, the fine could be as much as $35,000; the student association or federation could face a fine as high as $125,000.”
4- holds student groups “liable for the damages…if an institution is damaged during a protest organized by a student group. The same goes for members of a union working in the colleges and universities, meaning professors will have to think twice before supporting any further student action on campus.”
5- “(says) if a group attempts to disrupt classes, it will lose its funding. For each day classes are disrupted by actions taken by a student group, the penalty will amount to cessation of funding for a term. The measure could virtually bankrupt student associations or federations that condone strike action for any lengthy period of time.”
6- “removes the legal requirement for colleges to deliver 82 days of classes to complete a session, giving colleges the flexibility to re-organize their schedule in order to have students to finish this session.”
7- “…has a time limit, expiring on July 1, 2013.”

“Student associations reacted immediately, announcing they will challenge the bill in the courts. With this legislation, they said, the Charest government is violating their Charter rights and creating a police state in Quebec. …Students leaders also said they will not stand by and have the government take away their right to protest. …(CLASSE, the Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante) anticipates widespread opposition to the bill, figuring it will result in a major demonstration being planned for next Tuesday in Montreal.”

“The leader of the Official Opposition urged the Charest government ‘to come to its senses’ and withdraw the bill, which it said strikes at the heart of fundamental rights. ‘This bill is abusive. We have never seen anything like it before,’ Parti Québécois leader Pauline Marois said. ‘It is a frontal attack against the student associations.'”

The Montreal Gazette adds, “A poll conducted Thursday night by Forum Research found that Quebecers were split on the special law, with 40 per cent approving the Charest government’s handling of the crisis, down from 45 per cent in a Tuesday Forum Research poll. Support for the students’ side rose between Tuesday to Thursday from 33 per cent to 36 per cent. And while the Monday poll gave Charest’s Liberals a minority government with 60 seats, the tables have turned, with the PQ back in the lead with a 60-seat win.”

CBC notes, “Students marched in Montreal again (last) night, the 24th consecutive daily protest against tuition hikes. …The protests have even mushroomed beyond the cause of cheap tuition (that would mean tuition increases of more than 75 per cent for Quebec students). They have attracted a wide swath of other participants who dislike the Charest government and represent a variety of disparate causes — ranging from environmentalism, to Quebec independence, anti-capitalism and anarchy. They have also prompted one of the most intense left-versus-right ideological clashes in recent Quebec history.”

Poignantly, CTV reports, “Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, spokesperson for student group CLASSE, said, ‘What I can tell you is the students also are tired from protesting, we don’t do that because it’s fun, we don’t do that because we like to protest. We protest because there is no other way for us to be heard by this government and the day when the government will listen to us we will stop protesting.'”