This year, Quebec’s back-to-school period will go down as unique in history, as it will force thousands of students to go back to class under the coercive pressure of emergency law Act 12 (previously Bill 78). We consider this Act to be abusive and antidemocratic, severely impeding the right to freedom of expression, demonstration and association. 

This exceptional legislation has triggered an uproar of indignation among several dozen national and international organizations, including unions and students’ associations, but also the Quebec Bar Association, the Ligue des droits et libertés, Amnesty International, right up to the United Nations. In July, the Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse stated that the act contravenes, directly or indirectly, freedom of conscience, opinion, expression, peaceful assembly and association that the Charter of human rights and freedoms guarantees. The report ends with a call to make over a dozen of its provisions non-enforceable under the law¹ .

Furthermore, the conflict triggered by the increase in university tuition, has spread opening up a forum for the expression of popular dissatisfaction and for discussions on the political, economical and social choices for Quebec society. The mobilization that ensued generated the largest demonstrations in Quebec’s history.

As citizens, we are keen on restating the importance of our democratic discussion forums: our general assemblies, community groups, associations, citizens’ assemblies, people’s groups and any other free-speech venues that allow for opinion-sharing and collective decision-making.

As teachers, we believe that schools must be a public space for freedom, sharing of ideas, transmission of knowledge and culture — a place that fosters free expression and the discovery of democracy and citizenship. The recent confrontation between law enforcement and the academic milieu has left scars and has exposed the direct threat to free assembly and protest, where commercial pressures or political party-based interests are allowed to impinge upon education.

We must maintain the spaces for expression that have been created, and to foster discussions on a more just and fair society. More importantly, we must ensure that debate on issues raised by a significant number of citizens in the wake of the student’s movement must never again be gagged and censored by fiat.

  1., Page consulted July 23rd, 2012

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