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During Québec’s 2012 student strike, two antidemocratic laws were passed to control and limit the right to demonstrate. One bylaw to pass was done at the municipal level (bylaw P-6) and the second was passed by provincial legislation: Bill 78 (or 12). Both were passed in mid-May within days of the other as direct responses to the growing student oppositional movement. Both attempted to give greater power to the police whole violent attempts to quash the student movement had been unsuccessful. The summer tourist season was scheduled to begin on the weekend of June 7 with the Formula 1 Grand-Prix and municipal and provincial governments did not want to have Montréal’s reputation tarnished by continued mass protests.
Bill 78 was used only a handful of times (in Québec City?) during the strike. Bylaw P-6 was rarely used to arrest demonstrators during the strike, although it allowed police to declare a demonstration illegal at any moment during a protest march, which was systematic. This declaration gave the riot police an excuse to disperse any demonstration, which they did without hesitation and with considerable violence using teargas, rubber bullets, sound grenades, batons, shields and verbal abuse. Bill 78 was repealed in the fall of 2012 after the election of a new provincial government but bylaw P-6 remained at the municipal level and it is being implemented with increasing abuse.
In February and March, 2013, several demonstrations were systematically declared illegal even before they began and everyone in the demonstration was kettled (surrounded) by riot police under P-6 for not having provided their itinerary in advance. At more than four occasions within a few weeks, hundreds of demonstrators were confined for hours and each individual was given a ticket and fined $637 for participating in the protest.
Ironically, during the 2012 student strike, all the attention was given to Bill 78 and very little was given to bylaw P-6, which is probably why it remains on the books. Today, opposition party Projet Montréal put forth a motion to repeal P-6. The debate is ongoing and can be followed at #contreP6.
In the archives, nearly one hundred posters, banners, protest signs and other artefacts make a direct reference to Bill 78, while only three editorial comics in Le Devoir refer to bylaw P-6. Today’s half-dozen large banners placed in Place Émilie-Gamilin by l’ASSÉ are reminders that state repression legislated in the past can (and probably will) be used in the future by corrupt governments.