June 3, 2012

What to do if you are arrested - Quebec students make plans

A student protester is arrested by riot police
Students across Quebec are preparing for arrest, as the major student association la CLASSE has come out in defiance of notorious Law 78, which limits freedom of speech and assembly. Already, over 1600 students have been arrested since the law came into effect last week.

Exactly how the movement will response has become a major debate, with the Federations of university and college students, as well as the Quebec Federation of Labour, openly calling for the defeat of the government through elections. Both the FEUQ and FEUC have pledged to combat the government in the summer by knocking on hundreds of thousands of doors in ridings where the Quebec Liberal Party is weak.

A more radical path, supported by la CLASSE and more progressive and militant students, has been the question of a continued mobilization and escalation and a general social and political strike.

This strategy of a general strike is supported by la CLASSE as well as other left voices. The LJC-Q and the PCQ (Young Communist League and Communist Party of Quebec).  The LJC-Q has also stated that is is against the law and is calling on youth to maintain the defense of their rights and to continue to exercise them.

The basic procedures in response are also already being developed. For example, the AGECVM (Old Montréal College Student Association, a member of la Classe) is urging students to do the following if they get fined by virtue of the special law:

  • Contest by signing the bill, write the date and  «not guilty». Don’t write anything else
  • Fax, or scan and email, the fine to la CLASSE lawyer with a phone number so they can connect with you and hear your version
  • Send the original to the Municipal Court
  • Don’t publish your version of the facts anywhere else.
  • You should have news from the Municipal Court in about 6 months or more. 
The association is working to build a closed discussion list for every student accused in order to organize a collective process. While la CLASSE has come out against the law and is openly defying it -- all members of the executive now face steep fines and possible prison time -- the decision has been to let the local student associations that are members of la CLASSE decide their position.
Letting the Quebec national coalition collapse was calculated to be less risky than allowing the dissolution of the student unions, in which consists the militant base of la CLASSE.

Understanding the new law

With several days under their belt, the students have deepened their legal analysis of the bill and it's implications. It is now realized that in fact the Minister of Education has the extraordinary power to change every law in order not to cancel the semester.

One of the major components of the law are the heavy fines it imposes. Usually, minors can not be fined as high as adults, which is against the penal code (ie. a maximum fine of $1,000). The law, however, overrules this provision.

On the other hand, if the law is abrogated, this won't necessarily mean that people who have been arrested under Bill 78 will be amnestied.

Every waged person working in an educational institution also has to go back to work from the moment when the law is effect, in conformity with the Code du travail. The workers still have the right to go on strike, but only if it does not alter the so-called «right of education» meaning that, in practice, teachers (if not all campus workers) can not go on strike.

Any class stoppages forbidden

The strike-breaking legislation has teeth that bite further than protests. Nothing can now block the access to classes. Even symbolic acts are forbidden.

A student association can not receive any funds for one year per day lost because of a mobilisation action. Moreover, institutions that don’t apply this measure will be fined.

Furthermore, it is not only the obligation but now actually the duty or role of every student association to go back to class and to ensure its members are in conformity with Bill 78. On the other hand, anybody who helps defying the law can be found guilty.

Rules for radicals

Regarding protests with an « organizer», the law clearely states that this could be either an individual or an organization, and that the organisers have to declare not only the route, but also all the material they’ll need to protest (for instance, buses, cars, sound system, etc.).

Everyone can take part to a protest without necessarely beeing fined. The article saying the contrary is very difficult to apply and easy to contest in a trial (with reasonable doubt). Nevertheless, this will require struggle and drain energy as the students fight battles within the framework of the legal system.

People can still donate money to the associations if they loose their right to receive funds from its members.

Other fines

If an action is causes «additional costs», the organisers will have to pay for that. For example, if expenses are incurred because of a blockade or occupation action, the student bodies will have to refund the institution that lost money.

Moreover, according to the CLASSE, the situation of losing money that is described can either be by people, a group of people, an institution and even the state. So it is not impossible that the costs engendered by the use of the police forces could be transfered to student associations. Perhaps even lost profits.

Finally, if a student association decides to create a mobilization committee to avoid the consequences of Law 78, they are still not out of the woods. If any links between the association and the student union are tracked, the law states, the association is again considered responsible and therefore can be judged according to the law.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Popular stories