What’s the Deal with Bill 78?

I’m going to try to provide an answer to that question for those of us outside Quebec.  On the surface Bill 78 is nothing more than an attempt by the Charest Government to gain control over a situation that is quickly heading downhill.  Scratching underneath the surface this legislation is ambiguous and doesn’t  deal with the issue that set the protests off in the first place.

The legislation deals with what happens after the strike; requiring the resumption of classes no later than August 17 at 7am at all colleges.  Here’s where this clause gets muddy; the bill singles out three schools which all get until August 22, 2012- an additional 5 days.  Why not apply it universally?  I have tweeted that question, and so far have received no response

It requires college/ university workers to report to work no later than 7am May 19th.  Clause 11 requires workers to perform all duties “according to their respective functions,according to the applicable conditions of employment, without any stoppage, slowdown, reduction or degradation of
their normal activities.”  However section 12 starts off saying states that this doesn’t prevent a work stoppage by an association of employees except where it violates the previous two sections; Section 10 being the order to return to work by May 19th.  It’s almost like saying you must return to work by this date, at this time; but what you do afterwards is up to you.

It’s clause 16 that is causing the controversy, and putting the demonstrations into the international spotlight.  This is the one that basically says any demonstration involving over 50 people are required to give police 8 hour notice.  Section 17 asks the students to be certain their demonstrations adhere to the clauses of section 16.  This depending on who you ask either violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or comes dangerously close.   The legislation means that if say someone wanted to protest against the Monarchy they would have to let police know the route of their protest, and the means of transportation.   Watch for a Charter Challenge on the basis it violates the freedom of Association, and the Right to protest  to make its way through the courts on this one.

The legislation has been enacted with an expiry date of July 1, 2013; over a year from now.  A couple of questions spring to mind about this one; how long does Charest expect the demonstrations to last? If the students stop their demonstrations before the legislation expires will he repeal the law?  And what is the end game here? My mind goes straight to the elections.  Charest must call one sometime next year; maybe his idea is to let the protests run their course, and then run on a platform that includes an increase on tuition?

Bill 78 is ambiguous at best, a violation of the Charter at worst.  It speaks more of a struggle for control over an unpredictable situation than any attempt to deal with the problem that set off the protests in the first place; the tuition increase.

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