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Provincial and city governments in Quebec are resorting to repressive new laws in an effort to defeat the student mobilization, which has rocked that province for the past three months. Faced with strong and militant resistance by thousands in the streets, on May 18 Montreal passed a by-law banning the wearing of masks during protests. If convicted, people could be fined $3,000. This comes as the federal government prepares to amend the Criminal Code making it an offense to wear a mask during a riot or unlawful assembly (Bill C-306), with a maximum 10 year prison sentence if convicted.
On the same day as Montreal passed its anti-masking by-law, the Quebec government passed emergency legislation aimed directly at the student mobilization but affecting civil rights in general, "Bill 78: A Law Allowing Students to Receive the Education Provided by the School Which They Attend." It contains 36 articles, which lawyers, professors, and others have described as "draconian" and similar to the 1970 War Measures Act (when martial law was declared). Several of these articles are raising concerns due to their restrictions on public assembly and protests (and not just those of students), including:
•Any demonstration including 25 or more people would need to submit its route, location, time, date and duration to police at least eight hours in advance for approval. Police would be allowed to order modifications to the protest.
•Protest organizers, as well as any student association or federation of associations that participate in a demonstration, are accountable for the actions of all participants in the demonstration, under threat of fine.
•All protests that may hinder access to classes, whether directly or indirectly, are not allowed within 50 metres of the grounds of any teaching establishment. All protests within schools that hinder access to classes, stops the resumption or continuation of classes are also banned.
Both the Montreal by-law and Bill 78 are to come into effect on Saturday, May 19. There have been nightly rallies in Montreal for 24 consecutive nights. Another massive rally is scheduled for May 22 (which will mark the 100th day of the strike).
To read full reports on the new legislation, and the popular rebellion occurring in Quebec, check out the Montreal Media Coop (Coop media de Montreal).