Bill 78, the emergency law passed on May 18, may be a turning point…. It suspended the semester at striking colleges and universities until August, prohibited protest activities on campus and demonstrations anywhere without advance police approval, and imposed hefty fines—from $1,000 for individuals to $125,000 for student associations—on anyone failing to comply. The bill is widely perceived as a declaration of war against the students and as an assault on fundamental rights enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The enormous turnout of defiant protesters on May 22 suggests that the bill achieved the opposite of what it set out to do: it not only gave a boost to the student movement but helped forge a large coalition of citizens—separatists, unionists, intellectuals, artists, and so on—concerned about Québec’s future. What started as a protest against an ostensibly modest raise of university tuition fees 100 days ago has thus become the midwife of a vigorous public debate about the political, social, and cultural physiognomy of Québec.
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