Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Quebec, Alberta law banning some COVID protests raises concerns

New laws in Alberta and Quebec that bar protests related to COVID-19 from outside many public institutions are designed to curb free expression, with a civil liberties lawyer describing the clamp-down as “political in nature”. expressed concern about.

In Quebec, the Minister of Public Safety, Genevieve Gilbault, introduced Bill 105 on 23 September, calling for “health measures … vaccinations … or issued by public health officials within 50 meters of daycare, schools, publicly funded colleges, and Demonstrations were banned in connection with any other recommendation”. All health and social service institutions, including COVID-19 screening and vaccination clinics, whether stationary or mobile.

Those protesting within those limits face fines ranging from $1,000 to $6,000. Anyone who intimidates or threatens people to visit or leave those sites or try to use the services will face fines ranging from $2,000 to $12,000. The Bill prohibits organizing or instigating people to organize such protests and allows doubling of the fine for repeat offenders.

Bruce Pardy, a law professor at Queen’s University, told The Epoch Times that Quebec could be a weak spot in the law.

“Its vulnerability is that the ban extends not only to health care facilities but also to schools and junior colleges, which undermines the argument that the purpose of the ban is to ensure safety and/or access to health care, rather than suggest Gives that its real purpose is an expression of the challenges to the COVID narrative of the government,” he said.

Public health orders banning protests in British Columbia were rescinded in March following a constitutional challenge by the Justice Center for the Freedom of Justice (JCCF). However, Pardy says there’s no guarantee that the Quebec law will fall through.

“The scope of the B.C. ban on outdoor protests in March was broad,” he said.

“Although the Quebec ban explicitly restricts freedom of expression, it cannot be found to be unconstitutional. A similar restriction on the right to protest within a certain distance of abortion clinics has been upheld on the grounds that “While they infringe on freedom of expression under section 2(b) of the Charter, they are protected by the ‘reasonable limit’ exception in section 1.”.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced on September 28 that anti-vaccination protests and other demonstrations would be banned outside hospitals. The Critical Infrastructure Defense Act was amended to ensure that health care facilities have the same legal protections as railways, highways, pipelines and other essential public and private infrastructure. Repeat offenses for trespassing, interfering with or causing damage to operation and construction can result in a fine of up to $25,000 as well as up to six months in prison.

JCCF staff attorney Lisa Bildy believes the Quebec and Alberta laws are politically motivated.

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He said in an interview, “These sanctions are selective and political in nature and are an opportunistic way for governments to ensure that non-conforming opinions are not expressed through peaceful protest in places where they are actually intended.” reach the audience.”

In the face of such laws, democracy has been defeated, Bildy said.

“Peaceful assembly is constitutionally guaranteed because it is an effective way for a disadvantaged minority to express their views collectively,” she explains.

“In a society where the majority do not wish to have opinions heard beyond their carefully curated echo chambers and are generally not exposed to them through the mainstream media, further limiting their expression is a related trend for a liberal democracy. that thrives on the market. Ideas.”

‘punitive overkill’

The Quebec bill was fast-tracked into law on the same day that Claire Samson, the lone member of the Conservative Party of Quebec in the Quebec National Assembly, abstained. His successful amendment eliminates the bill in 30 days, although it can be renewed.

“It’s no small matter,” Samson told the gathering. “Are we going to get a special bill every week to target a group of exhibitors?”

A day after the bill was passed, Andrés Fontesilla, a member of the Quebec Solidaire Party, told The Canadian Press that the law was “protective and punitive overkill” and added that he was “angry” that it included public colleges since young adults. Those involved are “fully capable” of being exposed to political debate and making informed decisions. “

Kara Zwiebel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association questions whether the Quebec law has a valid basis.

“We already have laws that can allow police to deal with access to a health care facility that is blocked, and I think that would also have access to an education facility that is blocked. And I actually already have access to that facility.” I don’t see the justification for enacting new laws to deal with it instead of enforcing laws,” she said in an interview.

Zwiebel said that although governments have their own intentions to rein in protests, doing so is undemocratic.

“Protests can be disruptive, and governments want to avoid disruption or what may seem like a lack of order, but often the purpose of protests is to disrupt,” she said.

“Hence the disruption in itself is not a sufficient ground for passing the new law. And we have to admit that in a democracy sometimes we don’t like what people are saying, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to say it.

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Lee Harding is a journalist and think tank researcher based in Saskatchewan, and a contributor to The Epoch Times.

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This News Originally From – The Epoch Times

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