Hundreds of lawyers marched through the streets of Montreal on Monday in a nearly silent protest contesting the constitutionality of Bill 78, Quebec's latest law that attempts to bar the current student protest and strike. Many marchers carried copies of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
"It is one of the first times I’ve seen lawyers protest in public like this…and I’ve been practicing for almost 30 years,” said lawyer Bruno Grenier during the march.
The Montreal Gazette estimates up to 700 lawyers, notaries and other legal professionals took part in the demonstration. The legal group, marching in black robes, moved from the Montreal courthouse to Place Émilie-Gamelin (park), where they joined cheering student protesters from a separate march.
“There are so many vaguely worded parts to this law. It gives an incredible amount of discretionary power to police. It also makes the education minister judge and jury when it comes to deciding if student groups are legal," said lawyer Denis Barrette.
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The Montreal Gazette: Lawyers protest silently against Bill 78
Although they are sworn to uphold the laws of the land, hundreds of lawyers marched through Montreal streets Monday in a subdued challenge to Bill 78, which limits public protests.
“We don’t want to break the law but we want to contest it,” explained Pierre, a 23-year-old articling lawyer who would not give his last name. He was among an estimated 500 to 700 lawyers, notaries and other legal professionals who marched in their black robes and in near silence from the Montreal courthouse to Place Émilie-Gamelin, where they were greeted by wildly cheering protesters gathered for their own nightly march.
There were several protests Monday night against planned tuition fee hikes and Bill 78. [...]
René Saint-Léger, another lawyer in his 50s, said Bill 78 is also worrisome because it has been enacted for a finite period of time (it expires July 1, 2013). “We will probably be in an election during that time,” Saint-Léger said. “What will happen when someone wants to stage a protest against a minister of the government who is campaigning in a few hours, for example?”
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“That could be seen as being against the law.”
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As negotiations between student leaders and the provincial Liberals resumed in Quebec City Monday evening after a supper break, more protests took place in different parts of Quebec including Montreal, which hosted its 35th consecutive night of demonstrations.
Lawyers dressed in their courtroom gowns paraded in silence from the city’s main courthouse through the streets of Old Montreal to join the nightly march. [...]
The lawyer said his colleagues wanted to show the public that they oppose a law they “find unjust and which is probably unconstitutional.” [...]
Along the route they were greeted by claps of support and people shouting “merci.”
As they arrived at a downtown park, bystanders surged to shake their hands. Organizer Remi Bourget addressed the crowd using a loud speaker before the legal protest ended.
The nightly demonstration then began with people walking through the streets banging pots and pans. The Montreal police quickly declared the march illegal, prompting a big cheer from the crowd. Police said the march could continue as long as no criminal acts are committed.
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