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Quebec court rejects injunction on law limiting demonstrations

The Quebec Superior Court [official website, in French] on Wednesday rejected [judgment, in French] a request to suspend parts of an emergency law that restricts spontaneous protests until the law's constitutionality is determined later this summer. Judge Francois Rolland refused to grant the application for stay by student organizations reasoning that plaintiffs did not demonstrate irreparable harm would occur if the grant were denied. The law [Bill 78, PDF] was introduced and passed on May 18 to address the problem of frequent student protests against a proposed tuition increase of around 80 percent. The law, which will cease to be effective in July 2013 or any earlier date the government finds appropriate, imposes civil penalties on those who initiate, organize, participate or assist protests without giving an eight-hour notice to authorities. The fine ranges from CAD $1,000 to $125,000. Student associations such as La Federation Etudiante Collegiale du Quebec (FECQ), La Federation Etudiante Universitaire du Quebec (FEUQ) and Table de Concertation Etudiante du Quebec (TaCEQ) [advocacy websites, in French] responded that the law is unconstitutional and violates students' right to free expression and right to assembly. Felix-Antoine Michaud, who represents the student organizations, along with lawyers of Juripop [advocacy website, in French], argued that the authorities do not need the new law to effectively maintain peace and order.

Other countries have attempted to enact laws that would restrict protesters from exercising their rights to free expression and peaceful assembly. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] ruled [JURIST report] earlier this month that Moldova violated the rights to peaceful assembly and to be free from discrimination by banning gay groups from protesting in front of the country's parliament. Russian President Vladimir Putin [official website, in Russian] signed [JURIST report] a controversial law that would increase the penalties imposed on protesters who violate demonstration regulations. The law had been approved [JURIST report] by both houses of the Russian parliament two days earlier. In March, Swiss voters passed a law [JURIST report] similar to Quebec's proposed legislation. The law imposes heavy fines amounting to 100,000 Swiss Francs (USD $110,000) for people who protest without prior governmental authorization.

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