Anti-vaccine protesters outside a Montreal hospital, Sept. 13. Paul Chiasson / AP
Quebec seeks to put a stop to the demonstrations against vaccines and the restrictions derived from the pandemic that have disrupted health and educational centers.
On Thursday night, the National Assembly of this Canadian province unanimously approved a special law to prohibit these protests from taking place within 50 meters of hospitals, vaccination points, clinics, nurseries and primary and secondary schools.
François Legault, Prime Minister of Quebec, said on Tuesday that the chorus of protests in front of these places seemed "unacceptable" to him.
"I can not tolerate it," he said, adding that he would take action on the matter.
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The legislative piece specifies that the demonstrations cannot be located less than 50 meters from the grounds of these establishments and not from an access gate. Persons who violate this provision will have to pay a fine ranging from C $ 1,000 to C $ 6,000 (US $ 790 to US $ 4,700), although the amount can reach US $ 12,000 (US $ 9,400) in the event of intimidation or threats. The law will be in force for 30 days, but it could be renewed for a similar period or be without effect at the end of the state of health emergency issued by the provincial authorities.
For weeks, health and educational centers in various parts of Canada have been the scene of this wave of protests a few meters from their doors. In Quebec, these expressions of rejection of vaccination and different measures due to the pandemic have been carried out mainly in Montreal. Valérie Plante, its mayor, has classified them as "outrageous." It should be remembered that, during the federal electoral campaign, various rallies of Justin Trudeau were interrupted by these groups. Trudeau declared that he would not back down. In addition, he pointed out that his party intends to present a bill to sanction the obstruction of access to all premises that offer health services.
Quebec has taken the step. John Horgan, Prime Minister of British Columbia, said that his government is preparing a series of provisions inspired by those of the French-speaking province. 85.8% of Canadians over 12 years of age have received at least one dose of the vaccine; 79.6% already have the complete guideline. However, these figures have increased very slightly in recent times.
This week, the announcement of the presentation of this initiative and its approval elicited reactions regarding the right to demonstrate. The League of Rights and Freedoms stressed that this is an “unjustified attack on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly” that the constitution provides. In this regard, the Government of Quebec has indicated that this law will not apply in the case of protests over working conditions. Geneviève Guilbaut, Minister of Public Security, specified that demonstrations related to covid-19 will not be prohibited, but that they must respect the established distance. The authorities indicate that the temporary nature of the measure is another factor that will make it possible to resist possible appeals in court. In addition, they have made reference to a precedent: in 2016,the province adopted a law that prohibits demonstrations within 50 meters of abortion clinics.
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