Quebec's New Draconian Anti-strike and Anti-Asssembly Law

The following is from the National Lawyer's Guild - the Michigan Chapter.  It is a letter from an organization in Quebec, Canada.

 

Sisters, brothers,

            We write you during a dark time for democratic, human and
associative rights in Quebec with the following appeal for your help
and solidarity. As you have no doubt heard, the government recently
enacted legislation that amounts to the single biggest attack on the
right to organize and freedom of expression in North America since the
McCarthy period and the biggest attack on civil and democratic rights
since the enactment of the War Measures Act in 1970. Arguably, this
recent law will unduly criminalize more law-abiding citizens than even
McCarthy's hearings and the War Measures Act ever could.

            Among other draconian elements brought forward by this
law, any gathering of 50 or more people must submit their plans to the
police eight hours ahead of time and must agree to any changes to the
gathering's trajectory, starttime, etc. Any failure to comply with
this stifling of freedom of assembly and association will be met with
a fine of up to $5,000 for every participant, $35,000 for someone
representing a 'leadership' position, or $125,000 if a union - labour
or student - is deemed to be in charge.  The participation of any
university staff (either support staff or professors) in any student
demonstration (even one that follows the police's trajectory and
instructions) is equally punishable by these fines. Promoting the
violation of any of these prohibitions is considered, legally,
equivalent to having violated them and is equally punishable by these
crippling fines.

            One cannot view this law in isolation. In the past few
months, the Québec student movement - inspired by Occupy, the
Indignados of Spain, the students of Chile, and over 50 years of
student struggle in Québec; and presently at North America's forefront
of fighting the government's austerity agenda - has been confronted by
precedent-shattering judicial and police repression in an attempt to
force the end of the strike and our right to organize collectively.
Our strike was voted and is re-voted every week in local general
assemblies across Québec. As of May 18th, 2012 our committee has
documented and is supporting 472 criminal accusations as well as 1047
ticket and penal offenses. One week in April saw over 600 arrests in
three days. And those numbers only reflect those charged with an
offense, without mentioning the thousands pepper sprayed and tear
gassed, clubbed and beaten, detained and released. It does not mention
Francis Grenier, who lost use of most of an eye when a sound grenade
was illegally thrown by a police officer into his face in downtown
Montreal. It does not mention Maxence Valade who lost a full eye and
Alexandre Allard who clung to life in a coma on a hospital bed for
days, both having received a police rubber bullet to the head in
Victoriaville. And the thousands of others brutalized, terrorized,
harassed and assaulted on our streets.  Four students are currently
being charged under provisions of the anti-terrorist laws enacted
following September 11th.

            In addition to these criminal and penal cases, of
particular concern for those of us involved in the labour movement is
that anti-strike forces have filed injunctions systematically from
campus to campus to prevent the enactment of strike mandates, duly and
democratically voted in general assemblies. Those who have defended
their strike mandates and enforced the strike are now facing Contempt
of Court charges and their accompanying potential $50,000 fines and
potential prison time. One of our spokespeople, Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois,
will appear in Superior Court under such a charge for having dared
say, on May 13th of this year, that "I find it legitimate" that
students form picket lines to defend their strike.

            While we fight, on principle, against this judicialization
of a political conflict, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the
struggle on the streets has been, for many, transferred to the
courtroom and we must act to defend our classmates, our friends and
our family.  This defense needs your help. Many students have been
denied access to Legal Aid to help them to defend themselves. This,
while students filing injunctions to end strikes have been
systematically granted Legal Aid. While sympathetic lawyers in all
fields of law have agreed to reduced rates and alot of free support,
the inherent nature of the legal system means we are spending large
sums of money on this defense by the day.

            It is in this context that we appeal to you to help us
cover the costs of this, our defense. Not only must we help those
being unduly criminalized and facing injunctions undermining their
right to associate, but we must act now and make sure that the
criminalization and judicialization of a political struggle does not
work and set a precedent that endangers the right to free speech and
free assembly.

If you, your union, or your organization is able to give any amount of
financial help, it would make an undeniable difference in our
struggle.  In addition to the outpouring of support from labour across
Quebec, we have already begun to receive trans-Canadian and
international solidarity donations. We thank you for adding your
organization's support to the list.

If you have any questions, please contact us via email legal AT
asse-solidarité.qc.ca. Telephone numbers can be given to you in a
private message. You can also send you donation directly to the order
of "Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante" (2065 rue
Parthenais, Bureau 383, Montréal, QC, H2K 3T1) noting "CLASSE Legal
Committee" in the memo line.

In solidarity,

Max Silverman
Law student at the Université du Québec à Montréal
Volunteer with the Legal Committee of the CLASSE

Andrée Bourbeau
Law student at the Université du Québec à Montréal
Delegate to the Legal Committee of the CLASSE

Emilie Charette
Law student at the Université du Québec à Montréal
Delegate to the Legal Committee of the CLASSE

Emilie Breton-Côté
Law student at the Université du Québec à Montréal
Volunteer with the Legal Committee of the CLASSE
______________________________________________________________

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