REPORT : Repression, Discrimination and Québec’s 2012 Student Strike

[en traduction – bientôt en français]

(couverture du rapport “Répression, discrimination et grève étudiante” publié 29 avril 2013 – Cover of the report, “Repression, discrimination and the student strike: analysis and testimonials” released April 29, 2013)

I have been waiting for the report (Répression, discrimination et la grève étudiante: analyse et témoignages for a while and I look forward to reading it more closely. The report (currently in French only) was written by the Ligue des droits et libertés, the Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (ASSÉ) and the Association des juristes progressistes (AJP).  The Association of Progressive Lawyers’ website was overwhelmed by the first day’s demand for the report that it exceeded its bandwidth limit and ceased to function. The report includes testimonials by 274 people who responded to a call-out initiated on July 5, 2012. They were invited to report on experiences of police repression and discrimination during the student strike like intimidation or brutality, as well as arrests, detentions, accusations and reprisals. Some reported on their prevention to access public areas or to services for having worn the iconic symbol of the student strike: a red square. The three organizations sent the call out to the membership and even provided memory aids to help people write their testimonials.

La bannières de l'Association des juristes progressistes lors de leur manifestation au moi de mai 2012, contre la Loi spéciale. (photographer unknown.

La bannières de l’Association des juristes progressistes lors de leur manifestation au moi de mai 2012, contre la Loi spéciale. (photographer unknown).

The report reveals that between February 16 and September 3, 2012 a total of 3509 people were arrested. The testimonials allege police brutality and to the knowing misuse of existing legislation: abusive and unrealistic accusations like for the smoke bomb in the metro and its association to terrorism. Preventive arrests and detentions using article 31 of the Criminal Code and the ticketing of demonstrators using provisions from the Highway Safety Code were too commonplace during the strike. New legislative tools were created to limit the right to protest and compromise the right to association, such as the urgently adopted municipal bylaw that has been used to kettle entire demonstrations before they even begin (bylaw P-6) and the repressive provincial government’s Bill 78. The use of judicial injunctions to prevent students from blocking access to universities was a legislative tool that failed to quash the strike, even with the heavy presence of riot police on many university and college campuses.

Detailed lists of the arrests and their dates, including the mass arrests are revealing.

When Pink Floyd and police officer 728 meet on the dark side of the law. (artist unknown)

When Pink Floyd and police officer 728 meet on the dark side of the law (artist unknown).

The report ends with seven recommendations:

  1. Abandon the accusations brought on by municipal bylaws and the Highway Safety Code, and end the proceedings against those whose rights have been violated;
  2. Hold a public inquiry to investigate police abuse, mass arrests and violations of rights and freedoms during the student strike;
  3. The forbidding of the use of plastic bullets, explosive sound grenades and other “less than lethal” weapons in situations of crowd control;
  4. To hold an inquiry by the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse about political profiling and the reach it has had on freedom of expression in Québec;
  5. The immediate repeal of Montréal bylaw P-6 and other municipal bylaws that limit the right to protest;
  6. The immediate stop of the use, by all police forces, of article 31 of the Criminal Code and articles 500 & 500.1 of the Highway Safety Code in the context of demonstrations;
  7. To put into place a transparent, impartial, independent and civilian-based mechanism to investigate all cases of police interventions that lead to serious injury or death. The widening of the mandate of such a body to give it the power to initiate systematic investigations about police behaviour, notably during the events that precipitated during the 2012 student strike.

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