Call me naive, but I find it flabbergasting that major amendments to Bill 78, Québec’s new law criminalizing student strikes, were passed and inserted into the official record of the provincial legislature as hastily scrawled handwritten notes.
Bill 78 was drafted on Thursday, introduced on Thursday night, and debated for 21 straight hours before passage. The amendments in question were adopted on a single party-line vote, as was the bill itself. (The opposition offered a number of laudable amendments, in typewritten form, but all were rejected by the majority.)
What makes this haste extraordinary is the sweeping character of the bill, which regulates not only student strike actions but also any demonstration of any kind at which more than fifty people are in attendance. Several provisions of the bill are so vague that critics of the government have expressed doubt that they can be coherently interpreted — and when asked about these provisions, government officials waved them off with airy expressions of confidence in police and judges’ judgment.
This is big stuff, in other words. A major, controversial law in a delicate area. And it was written and passed on the fly.
You can’t look at these scribbled documents, festooned with false starts and marginal insertions — documents which, again, as of this morning make up a part of the official public text of a law which is even now in force in a province of eight million people — and have any confidence in the sobriety of the process that produced them. You can’t look at these amendments and believe that their authors took the fundamental questions of freedom of speech and assembly at stake with any kind of seriousness.
It’s an embarrassment.