Quebec had no choice but to intervene with protest law: gov't lawyer | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Quebec had no choice but to intervene with protest law: gov't lawyer

MONTREAL - Quebec government lawyers are defending a controversial protest law that is being challenged in court, arguing that it should remain in effect.

Lawyers representing student federations, unions and other groups are trying to get parts of Bill 78 — parts that pertain mainly to public protest — temporarily suspended.

Those same groups are also hoping to challenge the constitutionality of the entire law, later, in a separate case.

But Quebec government lawyer Normand Lavoie says it's important to understand the context in which Bill 78 was enacted.

The province was dealing with increasingly wild protests. And while more than 40 court injunctions had been handed down to allow students back to class, most weren't being respected by protesters — some of whom formed picket lines outside schools.

Lavoie notes that student protesters are now claiming they're the ones whose rights aren't being respected.

He says that given the situation, the government had little choice but to intervene. He disputes the argument from the law's detractors that it attacks protesters' right to assembly and free expression.

Bill 78 requires protesters to give police eight hours' notice and provide their itinerary. It also imposes extremely stiff fines on protesters who block schools.

With the school calendar into the summer break, and with police officers generally using municipal bylaws to fine protesters, the provincial legislation has gone virtually ignored. The people challenging the law say that provess it was not necessary in the first place, as police had the tools to act.

All it does, critics say, is undermine civil liberties and threaten people with huge fines.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2012
The Canadian Press

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