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Fines for blocking access to schools introduced to halt 14-week protest.
Quebec passed a law today aimed at halting a 14-week student strike, a move observers resoundingly derided as dangerous.
The law passed the provincial assembly by a 68-48 vote after debate began late Thursday and continued all day today.
It gives the government power to pause the current semester, fine anyone blocking access to a school and control street protests, The Canadian Press reported.
The new measures would expire in a year, although the government gave no word on when it would sign the bill into law.
Critics said measures in the law are vague, and it gives police far-reaching power, the Globe and Mail reported.
Student leaders have already promised the legislation might trigger greater reaction.
“The protests will continue and we are not excluding the possibility of disobeying the law. Sometimes when you are facing this kind of action, that is the only response,” student union leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois told the Globe.
Reaction from Quebec lawyers was equally disbelieving.
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“This bill, if adopted, is a breach to the fundamental, constitutional rights of the citizens,” bar association president Louis Masson said, the Globe reported.
About one-third of Quebec’s post-secondary students have staged near daily rallies and marches in reaction to proposed tuition hikes, saying they’re on “strike.”
The government wants to raise fees by more than $1,600 over the next seven years to help control its budget.
The hike would amount to about a 75 percent increase in some cases.
Moreover, students and labor leaders say affordable, accessible education is integral in Quebec, a province with some of the lowest tuition in Canada.
Quebec’s government said the sometimes-violent student protests, and students’ refusal to accept concessions, forced them into adopting the legislation.
Business owners and regular citizens say they the thousands of student demonstrators clogging streets must be controlled.
While Quebec’s provincial government passed its new law, the City of Montreal – site of many protests – quietly passed a law banning masks at demonstrations.
Marchers must also provide route details, the Montreal Gazette reported.
Mayor Gerald Tremblay said it’s “an additional tool for our police … to better control demonstrations, to intervene more rapidly and isolate vandals and prevent violent and criminal acts,” according to the Gazette.
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