On 19 March 2013, I was illegally and arbitrarily arrested, searched, handcuffed behind my back for hours and detained for almost 6 hours all for peacefully protesting the indexation of tuition fees imposed by the Parti Québecois government.
Today, five years later, the court of appeal has just confirmed that the Montreal by-law under which we were arrested is unconstitutional. Article 1 of Montreal by-law P6 attempted to require demonstrators to identify an organizer, provide a precise route to the police and obtain their permission before protesting. The regulation is has not been declaired invalid and the Municipal administration of Valerie Plante has said they will not be appealing it to the Supreme Court! This is a great victory for all Canadians, and especially for thousands of young people like myself who were arbitrarily arrested and detained under this totalatarian law, which played a key role in crushing the Quebec student movement.
– Protest on March 19th 2013 –
On the night in the video, we met at parc émilie-Gamelin for a night-time protest in the city. When we arrived at the starting point the Montreal Poliece physically prevented us from taking the streets and declared our protest illegal before it even began. Determined to exercise our rights, we got on the subway and exited two stations further to take the streets. Several of us knew very well that mass arrests and violations of our fundamental rights were common practices in Montreal, but we were determined to stand up for our rights and we took to the streets as an act of peaceful civil disobedience.
When we came out of the subway, we took Mont-Royal Street west before turning south on Saint-Laurent. A few moments later, an army of riot poliece surrounded us on both sides. They started to form a kettle around us. We had nowhere to go. Several of us tried to escape by entering a restaurant, but the riot police followed us inside.
When they forced us back outside, we were about 60 students in the kettle which inposed an end to end a completely peaceful demonstration in which not a single act of vandalism was commited. It was like living under a totalatarian dictatorship. Unfortunately, the reality is that political repression and arrests exist in both Quebec and Canasa. The police took us one by one to search us, photograph us, handcuff us behind our backs and out us on busses. Then they brought us to the east end of the city where we spent almost three hours with handcuffs behind our backs. We were not given access to water, toilets, food and there was no opportunity to contact a lawyer. In all, we spent more than 6 hours in detention and when it was over we had to take a very long trip back home in the middle of the night after the subway had closed.
A few months later, I was elected as leader of the Green Party of Québec. The entire group of people arrested decided to contest the $ 637 tickets that we had received. Over the next two years, we were summoned four times to the municipal court. When we arrived, the prosecutors and the spvm were disorganized, they were unable to produce their “evidence” and we all missed working days and remuneration for their poor managment of their files. In 2014, thousands of trials against maple spring protesters began to fall for unreasonable delays. Then, a judge of the municipal court ruled against the SPVM’s evidence collection procedures. Arrest papers were routinley signed by police officers who were not even present at the time of the arrests. In 2016, the superior court invalidated article 1 of the regulation, which stipulated that a route be disclosed. This week the court of appeal confirmed that decision.
Throught this experience, I have learned how important it is to fight for our political rights and freedoms. I do not want to reside in a country or political arrests are permitted. Even if the courts gave us sided with us five years later, successive PQ and Liberal governments succeeded in crushing our youth movement with force, violence, arrests and unconstitutional laws. The damage is done, but we are stronger now. The precedent created by the judgment of the court of appeal is an additional protection for our democracy and for all canadians.
I encourage everyone to uphold our rights. It is by the strength of the numbers that we succeeded in this battle. I would like to thank all the students who participated in the movement, lawyers and trade unions who fought in court for years to protect our rights and especially anarchopanda, aka Julien Villeneuve, who initiated the legal proceedings against the regulation in question.
Leader of the Green Party of Québec