Letter: Anti-protest Laws Declared Unconstitutional—Student Tribunals Are Concordia Equivalent

The 2012 student strike, though momentous on a citizen level, was accompanied by a period of political repression from the Quebec government. They used highly controversial, unenforceable and even unconstitutional laws to violently stop people from gathering and protesting in the streets.

Two of these laws are bylaw P-6 and article 500.1 of the Highway Safety Code.

Thousands of these tickets were issued, running $500 or more in fines (if someone bothered to pay it). A common strategy for the recipients was to band together and fight the tickets, and they were largely successful. Eventually, roughly 2,000 tickets were dismissed, and recently as many as an additional 523 were cancelled.

Hours upon hours of community work went into preparing for the judicial processes involved in these battles—hours upon hours of wasted community time because of repressive state behaviour.

This past month saw the courts declare the use of article 500.1 unconstitutional, saying it “restricts the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly protected by the Quebec and Canadian charters [of rights and freedoms].” This limitation is not justified in the context of a free and democratic society,” according to Ethan Cox’s Ricochet article, “Quebec police violated constitutional rights of protesters: judge.”

Unfortunately, we are facing a similar issue right now at Concordia University. Roughly 25 students are facing academic consequences that could see them removed from representative bodies they’ve been elected or appointed to by students for taking part in peaceful strike actions in their classes, in accordance with a democratic mandate taken through the respective departmental student association.

Without even getting into the backwards nature of collective action resulting in arbitrary individual academic consequences, it is clear that on a societal level students and social movements have been facing unjustifiable political repression when they’ve tried to democratically use their collective voice. The likes of which are only just barely touched on through this letter.

In a climate such as this, we need the university community to support students as equals, and to help defend our collective voice. If the recent court rulings tell us anything, it’s that we need more protection for social movements, not less.

With tribunal hearings coming up on Dec. 2, we have a good opportunity to send that message by throwing these tribunal complaints, and changing the code so that it no longer discriminates against student collective action.

Benjamin Prunty, Concordia Student Union councillor