québec’s first female premier promptly repeals controversial anti-protest law

by Tim Phillips

The punitive sections of Special Law 12, also known also Bill 78, officially came off the books today. Adopted as an emergency measure in mid-May to control the student strike in Québec, the Special Law disallowed demonstrations too close to universities, imposed fines on people who stopped students from attending classes, required that police receive demonstration routes 8 hours in advance (if more than 50 people would be participating), and gave police discretion to change those routes for security reasons.

A new version of Montréal’s bylaw P–6 also went into effect in May and has yet to be abrogated. Police have consistently used bylaw P–6 against demonstrators, as opposed to the more widely-publicized Special Law. As CrimethInc. explains,

Bylaw P–6 was first introduced in 2001, and it stipulates that any demonstration can be declared illegal at the discretion of the police if they have reasonable grounds to believe that it will cause “a commotion” or otherwise endanger public order. It also forbids anyone from bringing blunt objects to demos, naming baseball bats as well as hockey sticks—famously used during the 2001 Québec City anti-FTAA demonstrations to knock tear gas canisters back at police.

Though intended to control demonstrations, Special Law 12 revived them due to its unpopularity. (Should we therefore mourn its abrogation?) In any event, political repression does not wax and wane with the passage and repeal of individual anti-protest laws, as shown by how police used bylaw P–6 even when the Special Law was in effect. If bylaw P–6 was also to be repealed, there would still be countless other laws available to police for use against dissidents – for example, widely violated laws that lend themselves to selective enforcement.