The Quebec Superior Court has rejected a request for an emergency injunction against the province's controversial Bill 78 before a court challenge is heard later this summer.
The government introduced the emergency law on May 18 in response to the province's escalating tensions over student strikes. The bill is set to expire in July 2013.
On Wednesday, Judge François Rolland turned down the injunction request, claiming that the law's fundamentals should be studied and debated before proceedings on a formal court challenge should begin.
A coalition including the province's major student organizations asked the court to suspend six sections of the law until July, when the court is expected to hear a challenge seeking to declare the law invalid.
The ruling remains in effect unless the Court of Appeal intervenes or until the case goes to trial, which would come after the next election, if Quebecers go to the polls later this summer.
No charges made under law
As it stands, no one has been charged under Bill 78 since its enactment. Police have been using current municipal bylaws and laws such as the Highway Code and the Criminal Code to halt and control demonstrations.
In late May, a protest in Sherbrooke saw 36 people arrested under Bill 78. However, Sherbrooke police backtracked and charged the suspects under Section 500.1 of the Highway Code. The article states that no one, in any circumstance, should deliberately block traffic.
People charged under the article were handed $494 fines.
For some legal experts the law violates rights, while opposition leaders have called it "abusive."
Bill 78 summary
The law is based on three main pillars: It pauses the current school year at institutions affected by strikes; imposes steep fines for anyone who tries blocking access to a school; and limits where, how, and for how long people can protest in Quebec.
- Fines of between $1,000 and $5,000 for any individual who prevents someone from entering an educational institution.
- Penalties climb to between $7,000 and $35,000 for a student leader and to between $25,000 and $125,000 for unions or student federations.
- Public demonstrations involving more than 50 people have to be flagged to authorities eight hours in advance, and include their itinerary, duration and the time at which they are being held.
- Police can order a protest to move to a different location.
- Offering encouragement for someone to protest at a school, either tacitly or otherwise, is subject to punishment.