Law Union of Ontario Expression of Solidarity With Québec Students

LUO Letter to Premier Charest

The enclosed letter was sent to Premier Jean Charest and several government ministers on May 30, 2012

May 30, 2012

The Honourable Jean CharestPremier
Government of Québec
Édifice Honoré-Mercier
835, boul. René-Lévesque Est, 3e étage
Québec (Quebec) GIA 1B4

Dear Premier Charest,

The Law Union of Ontario expresses solidarity with the students in Québec who continue to protest the tuition increase and more broadly, the austerity measures that are being effected throughout Canada.

The student demonstrations in Québec have sparked widespread discussion on the accessibility of education. The tuition increase proposed by the Charest government comes from the view that the current method of funding post secondary education is fiscally unsustainable and that individual students should bear the burden of their education. This view heavily deviates from the goal of democratizing post secondary education identified by he Parent Commission and results in a number of unwanted repercussions, including the
exclusion of equity groups that cannot afford a post-secondary degree. The red squares that many of us wear in solidarity of the student movement signify the impact that the proposed increase will have on student debt; it will leave students “carrément dans le rouge” (squarely n the red) and will trap students in years of debt.

Further, we recognize that the demonstrations are part of the greater struggle opposing neoliberal austerity measures that are being proposed and implemented by various Canadian governments. The tuition increases, bursary cuts, and additional efforts to encourage
donations from individuals and businesses are all part of the neo-liberal discourse of privatization. The Charest government’s proposals are indeed consonant with the way neoliberalism operates—the use of state power to create an increasingly laissez faire environment while making efforts to decrease public expenditures. We see the hikes as an attack on some of the most vulnerable members of society and find parallels in our commitment to oppose inequality that is fueled by government and corporate actors. By fiercely advocating against neo-liberal austerity measures, the students in Québec set an example for the rest of us to follow; they remind us that there is an alternative to passive acceptance of the status quo by taking deliberate steps to build a better, more equitable future.

We urgently appeal to the Charest government to repeal Bill 78: An Act to enable students to receive instruction from the postsecondary institutions they attend for the severe ramifications it poses to Charter rights. Specifically, Bill 78’s provisions, which require
protestors to give at least eight hours notice to the police force of the time, duration, and itineraries of lawful assemblies involving 50 people or more, and the various penal sanctions for failing to adhere to this protocol, will have a chilling effect on the section 2(c) right to
peaceful assembly guaranteed in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The banal naming of the legislation is nothing more than a mask for the further criminalization of dissent. Further, we ask the Charest government to resume negotiations with students in good faith, and call
for a moratorium on rising tuition fees. We condemn the police brutality, the arrests of
peaceful protestors, and the intensification of policing activity surrounding the ongoing
strike. Lastly, we protest the municipality of Montréal’s attempt at hindering protestors by
adopting the anti-mask bylaw.

Nous sommes solidaires avec les étudiants. Nous sommes ensemble.

-The Law Union of Ontario
cc Madame Michelle Courchesne, ministre de l’Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport
Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec
Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec
Coalition large de l’Association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante

Hamilton Police Castigated Roundly by Superior Court in Wrongful Arrest Case

The Hamilton Police Services Board was issued a stinging rebuke by Superior Court Justice Kim Carpenter-Gunn as she awarded $46,000 in damages, including $10,000 in punitive damages, to Michael Dixon, after he was wrongfully arrested and jailed on August 15, 2003.

In her lengthy two-hour oral decision, Just Carpenter-Gunn described the conduct of the Hamilton police as “high-handed, arbitrary, and highly reprehensible.”

The case was argued by long time Law Union of Ontario Steering Committee member Vilko Zbogar.

Read the Hamilton Spectator’s coverage of the decision here

Law Union of Ontario Statement of Support for No One Is Illegal

The Law Union of Ontario (“The Law Union”) is dismayed by recent attacks by the Conservative Government’s Immigration Minister Jason Kenney, aimed at the grassroots migrant rights group No One Is Illegal.< No One Is Illegal has a proven track record of working alongside migrant communities and individuals on issues relating to human rights and broader social justice.  From working to ensure undocumented people living in Canada have access to women's shelters, food banks, and health care, to organizing campaigns against discriminatory immigration laws and continued resource theft from Indigenous communities and the agenda of increased profits on the backs of people's welfare as exhibited by the G8-G20 governments, No One Is Illegal is an important and crucial voice of dissent. Coming at a time when the Tory government seeks to further erode the human rights of immigrants and refugees through amendments contained in Bill C-31, dubbed the "Refugee Exclusion Bill" by a growing number of critics, the government's attempt to deflect attention from its own record is astonishing. Co-ordinated national actions on April 4, 2012, by No One Is Illegal and their supporters helped to shine the light on the worrisome provisions of C-31, which creates a discriminatory two-tier system of refugee protection based on nationality, mandates incarceration for many asylum seekers, and revokes permanent residency from many people already granted refugee status. Over the last few years, Conservative Minister Jason Kenney and other Harper Conservatives have targeted No One Is Illegal repeatedly, in press statements, in twitter posts and in statements in Parliament. The most recent targeting of NDP MP Don Davies for attending an anti-racism protest coordinated by No One Is Illegal – Vancouver is part of this long history of mud-slinging. More then anything else, these attacks on No One Is Illegal are aimed at diverting attention from the government's own policies - policies calculated to keep newcomers in precarious, vulnerable, and oppressive workplaces. This is a tired old approach and must be challenged. Calling grassroots activists “hard-line extremists” as Mr Kenney does is dangerous. It suggests a government that wishes to create a chill on legitimate dissent.  It tacitly encourages police authorities to target political organizers as we have seen take place during the G8/G20 Summits and in Indigenous communities across the country. The Law Union stands in total agreement with the criticisms made by No One Is Illegal with respect to this government’s immigration policies, and is proud to work together with No One Is Illegal on a number of campaigns and issues.  Most recently No One Is Illegal - Toronto and The Law Union collaborated to produce a guide for newcomers informing of their rights under Canadian law, which is now being published in many languages. The Law Union calls upon the Minister and the government to refrain from attacking non-profit organizations with whom it does not agree as "un-Canadian" and focus instead on protecting and welcoming newcomers to this country. The Law Union, founded in 1974, is a coalition of over 200 progressive lawyers, law students and legal workers. The Law Union provides for an alternative bar in Ontario which seeks to counter the traditional protections afforded by the legal system to social, political and economic privilege. The Law Union is run by an annually elected steering committee. The Law Union has several collectives and working groups and has active chapters at many law schools.