Special Bill 78 Primer
Important Information About Bill 78
*DISCLAIMER: Please note that we are not lawyers, this is our best understanding of Bill 78. For further questions about the law or concerns due to arrests/tickets, please contact CLASSE legal committee at: 438-933-2773(ASSE) and/or the CLASSE lawyer Denis Poitras: 514-289-9995.
You can also contact the GSA Advocacy at email@example.com or the GSA VP-external at firstname.lastname@example.org
To donate to CLASSE (legal efforts, etc.) see: http://www.bloquonslahausse.
Bill 78 represents an attack on democracy in Quebec and Canada. The Bill is an insult to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of Canada - private, and of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms of Quebec - private, both of which affirm freedom of conscience, freedom to assemble peacefully, freedom of association, and freedom of expression. The law has been denounced by the Barreau du Québec, the Quebec Human Rights Commission, the Canadian Association of University Teachers, the Council of Canadians, and Amnesty International, among many other groups, associations, and individuals including law professors, human rights activists.
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Parts of GSA General Assembly Motions That Have Been Outlawed with Bill 78
*The GSA General Assembly voted to strike beginning 12 March. The resolution, adopted on 6 March 2012, read, in part:
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Graduate Students’ Association of Concordia University hereby calls an open-ended strike, meaning the collective cessation of class attendance, to begin on 12 March 2012 until such time as the government of Quebec rescinds its proposed increases to the Quebec tuition rate and freezes out-of-province and international forfaitaires;
*The General Assembly of 19 March 2012 adopted the following resolution:
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Graduate Students’ Association of Concordia University shall remain on strike as voted at the General Assembly of 6 march 2012;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT by strike we mean that we will not be attending class nor submitting coursework in recognition that they are inseparable, and that to submit coursework while not attending class implies that class time is irrelevant;
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the GSA will encourage and support picket line actions for the collective and visible cessation of classes.
As a result of Bill 78, the third part of this resolution is illegal.
*The GSA General Assembly of 2 May 2012 adopted the following resolution:
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the GSA shall remain on strike as voted at the General Assembly of 6 March 2012 and continue to hold General Assemblies every two weeks for the duration of the strike or at the discretion of the executive committee with at least 3 days notice.
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT by strike we include not attending summer classes, not submitting coursework, and/or withdrawals from class registration for the current and next semester; we encourage students, who are concerned about continuation fees due to strike-related extensions of study, to consider leaves of absence so long as they do not jeopardize their funding. The GSA does not consider the strike a consumer boycott, and continues to encourage and support picket line actions and other peaceful forms of collective and visible protest.
The part of the final sentence reading “picket line actions” is illegal.
What the Government Requires the GSA To Do Now
According to Section 15 Bill 78 the GSA “must employ appropriate means to induce the students it represents not to contravene sections 13 and 14″, to wit:
13. No one may, by an act or omission, deny students their right to receive instruction from the institution they attend or prevent or impede the resumption or maintenance of an institution’s instructional services or the performance by employees of work related to such services, or directly or indirectly contribute to slowing down, degrading or delaying the resumption or maintenance of such services or the performance of such work.
14. No one may, by an act or omission, deny a person access to a place if the person has the right or a duty to be there in order to obtain services from or perform functions for an institution. Without restricting the generality of the first paragraph, any form of gathering that could result in denying such access is prohibited inside any building where instructional services are delivered by an institution, on the grounds of such a building or within 50 metres from the outer limits of such grounds.
It is nowhere defined what shall constitute “appropriate means” or what “induce” shall mean.
If the GSA does not succeed in “inducing” the students we represent (i.e., you) to comply with sections 13 and 14 of Bill 78, and any group of students is prevented from attending class, the University administration is required by law to inform the government, and to provide information “including the circumstances that caused the situation, the groups of students affected and, for each of those groups, the student association to which it belongs as well as any other information that may be useful for the purposes of this Act.” (s. 18)
Punitive measures are also provided for in Section 18:
If the Minister notes that the institution is unable to deliver instructional services as a result of a failure by a student association to comply with an obligation imposed by this Act, the Minister may, despite any provision to the contrary, order the institution to cease collecting the assessment established by the student association or any successor student association and to cease providing premises, furniture, notice boards and display stands to the student association or any successor student association free of charge. The cessation is effective for a period equal to one term per day or part of a day during which the institution was unable to deliver instructional services as a result of the failure to comply.
That is, if the GSA now fails to “induce” its members to comply with sections 13 and 14 of Bill 78, meaning if even a single class is blocked Concordia University must inform the Minister of Education, and the Minister may decree that:
- the University cease collecting the GSA fee
- the GSA be evicted from its offices (GSA House)
In effect, the GSA would cease to exist as an association, and no other grouping would be able to reacquire the rights lost. Any association of graduate students would be limited by the same constraints.
Please note sections 13 and 14 of the law quoted above:
- any kind of gathering that could possibly – directly or indirectly – prevent instructional activities from taking place, is prohibited on campus or within 50 meters of any campus of any university, CEGEP, or college-level institution
This obviously applies to hard pickets, blocking classes, interrupting classes, preventing faculty from teaching, and other such activities. However, any activity that could possibly “prevent or impede the resumption or maintenance of instructional activities” is included.
The fines for contravening this dictate are very large, and could apply to all individuals who participate, help or incite it, with larger fines for student associations and federations and their representatives and staff. Moreover, the association that organizes of such an action may be held liable for damages incurred by anyone who claims damages owing to a contravention of sections 13 or 14 (ss. 22-24).
The GSA has not organized marches or demonstrations. As a precaution, police were informed of the existence of a GSA contingent marching from the GSA House to Place des Arts for the 22 March demonstration. Similar precautions will be taken as necessary, due to the below.
All demonstrations (off-campus and on-campus)
With respect to all demonstrations, whether strike-related or not, Bill 78 states that:
16. A person, a body or a group that is the organizer of a demonstration involving 50 people or more to take place in a venue accessible to the public must, not less than eight hours before the beginning of the demonstration, provide the following information in writing to the police force serving the territory where the demonstration is to take place:
(1) the date, time, duration and venue of the demonstration as well as its route, if applicable; and
(2) the means of transportation to be used for those purposes.
The police force serving the territory where the demonstration is to take place may, before the demonstration and to maintain peace, order and public security, order a change of venue or route; the organizer must comply with the change ordered and inform the participants.
17. A person, a body or a group that is the organizer of a demonstration and a student association or a federation of associations taking part in the demonstration without being its organizer must employ appropriate means to ensure that the demonstration takes place in compliance with the information provided under subparagraph 1 of the first paragraph of section 16 and any change ordered under the second paragraph of section 16.
In other words, if we are organizing or participating in any kind of demonstration or march and we anticipate that more than 49 people will be there, according to the law we must inform the police in advance, comply with any changes the police demand, and take means necessary to ensure that the demonstration takes place in that way. This applies to all demonstrations, not only strike-related ones. It is not clear what the government regards as a “demonstration”.