Right to demonstrate: invalid regulations still in force in Quebec

The elements in question are still found in the official version of the Peace and Good Order Regulations, described as updated to 1er May 2022 on the City’s online portal.

The article in question, 19.2, stipulates that it is prohibits a person from holding or participating in an illegal demonstration on public property. According to paragraphs 1 and 2, an assembly is considered illegal if the organizers do not provide the route of the demonstration in advance or if the latter is not respected.

SPVQ police officers stand guard in front of an RTC bus inside which demonstrators are being held.

Several demonstrators were arrested by SPVQ police officers during Maple Spring, the scene of many rallies in the streets of the capital.

Photo: Radio-Canada

These measures came into effect on June 20, 2012, in response to the numerous Maple Spring demonstrations held in Quebec City. They therefore offered police officers from the Service de police de la Ville de Québec (SPVQ) new tools to supervise gatherings and several arrests resulted.

The provisions were, however, struck down by the Court of Appeal in October 2019. The province’s highest court ruled in favor of a protester who was arrested and fined under 19.2.

The passages considered unconstitutional have not yet been repealed by the City since.

Constraint and confusion

For the League of Rights and Freedoms (LDL), maintaining these measures in the regulations despite the judgment poses a problem for the right to demonstrate. It leads to situations where people don’t really know which foot to dance onargues Maxim Fortin, coordinator at the LDLQuebec section.

He is sorry to see that groups are currently subject to regulatory measures which no longer apply by providing their itinerary, for example. Some bands prefer to play safe and comply with a regulation that has been invalidatedhe says, worrying that this practice will become a standard in itself.

In a letter addressed to Mayor Bruno Marchand at the end of April, Mr. Fortin insists that these traces of the past still have an influence. He sees a potential dissuasive effect for groups or citizens who would like to mobilize.

Maxim Fortin, coordinator of the League of Rights and Freedoms of Quebec

Maxim Fortin, coordinator of the Ligue des droits et libertés de Québec, recently challenged Mayor Bruno Marchand to eliminate 19.2 of the Peace and Good Order By-law.

Photo: Radio-Canada

Mr. Fortin recalls that the by-law provides for fines of $150 to $1,000. According to him, the repeal of this provision is essential to ensure the full exercise of the right to demonstrate.

It is important that municipal regulations are updated following court decisions so that citizens can be well informed of the regulations in force and are not deterred from fully exercising their rights.he wrote to the mayor of Quebec.

The LDL hope for a quick reaction from elected officials.

As of June 20, article 19.2 will be 10 years old, we do not want it to reach this venerable age. »

A quote from Maxim Fortin, Coordinator, League of Rights and Freedoms of Quebec

In other words, he gave the Marchand administration less than a month to submit the repeal of the bylaw to the municipal council.

If the situation may not seem urgent at the moment, the human rights activist invites us not to wait for citizen struggles to gain momentum.

There’s little struggle and little tension in struggle [actuellement]he said. So the groups can say to themselves: “we might as well put safety before principles”. But very quickly, we will be overtaken by this logic.

Undue pressure

Vania Wright-Larin, coordinator of the Regroupement d’éducation populaire en action communautaire de Québec et Chaudière-Appalaches (RÉPAC 03-12), says he also observes the influence of 19.2 on the ground. There is a vagueness that will put a brake on the organization of demonstrations for many groupshe fears.

If his organization is used to mobilizations and to taking public space to be heard, it is not at all certain that the majority of organizations, or even ordinary citizens, are aware of the judgment rendered by the Court call.

The riot squad of the Quebec City Police Department is on site.

According to RÉPAC 03-12, the fear of police intervention can be enough to discourage mobilization.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Olivier Lemieux

According to him, the fact that 19.2 is still visible without specific mention in the Peace and Good Order Regulations can create a chilling effect. According to him, organizers of a potential demonstration could feel pressure to be responsible for everyone who takes part in a protest and thus avoid taking the risk.

With hindsight, Mr. Wright-Larin denounces the establishment of regulations seen as short term solutions but which had never been tested by the courts ten years ago. He regrets that it took legal challenges following arrests to achieve gains to protect the right to demonstrate.

Like Maxim Fortin, he hopes for a quick correction of the regulations.

Regulatory update

The City of Quebec insists for its part that the provisions of its by-law invalidated in 2019 have not been applied by the police since the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

The police service continues to supervise the demonstrations in order to ensure peace and good order, in collaboration with the organizers and the various partners.adds David O’Brien, spokesperson for the City of Quebec.

The latter confirms in passing that a reflection has been initiated within the municipal administration in order to revise the By-law on peace and good order. The City, he says, plans to adjust it and submit it to the city council by the end of 2022.

The mayor of Quebec wishes to obtain the decrees necessary for the continuation of the tramway project

The Mayor of Quebec, Bruno Marchand

Photo: Radio-Canada / Olivier Bouchard

The same story was obtained at the town hall office. At no time have the police given offenses since the judgmentinsists Thomas Gaudreault, press officer for Bruno Marchand.

If the firm deems that the rights to protest are fundamental to a healthy democracyhe says for the moment to rely on the administrative process initiated by the City. Legal services are looking into the matter for possible adjustments soon.

The Mayor of Montreal, Valérie Plante, experienced a similar situation with a by-law of the same nature adopted by the administration of Denis Coderre in the spring of 2012. By-law P-6, which provided for an obligation to provide an itinerary, was invalidated in court in 2016.

Valérie Plante officially eliminated him in November 2019, a few weeks after the judgment concerning the Quebec regulations.


Leave a Comment