It is a little ironic that the Quebec government's Bill 78 came down on the same day a Russian anti-protest bill was to be introduced.
Friday was supposed to be the first reading of a draconian draft law in Russia that would raise the maximum fines for organizers of unsanctioned protests to $48,000 from $1,600. Participants' fines would increase to $32,000 from $160.
Quebec's legislation, which passed Friday, also sets multiple requirements on public demonstrations and threatens stiff penalties to people who disrupt college and university classes.
The bill has been met with a chorus of criticism.
Louis Masson, the head of the Quebec Bar Association, says the Bill "clearly limits" the right to freedom of assembly. Constitutional lawyer Julius Grey told CBC News that Bill 78 is a "terrible law" that suspends the freedom to association, express and protest, without sufficient reason. Pauline Marois, leader of the opposition Parti Québécois, said it was "one of the darkest days of Quebec democracy" and demanded Premier Jean Charest hold elections because of the unpopularity of the law.
And, according to the Associated Press, the U.S. consulate in Montreal has warned visitors and U.S. expatriates to be careful because of the demonstrations.
Meanwhile, according to the New York Times, Russian President Vladimir Putin will have to wait for his legislation "to cope with an increasingly assertive opposition." The anti-protest bill in that country was abruptly delayed until next week because of disagreements within the government.
What's contained in Quebec's Bill 78?
Openfile.ca has published this list explaining the new rules:
-Semesters at campuses impacted by the student strike are immediately suspended, due to start again in August.
- Demonstrations with more than 50 people must provide the police with a time, location and duration at least eight hours in advance. The police may modify any of these parameters at any time.
- All gatherings are banned within 50 metres of a campus.
- Student associations not "employing appropriate means to induce" their members to comply with the law are guilty of violating the law. Individuals also fall under this and can be guilty by omission or for providing advice.
- Fines range from $1,000 for individuals to $125,000 for student associations. Fines double for repeat offences.