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Minister Laforest does not expect many fines to protect elected officials

Photo: Jacques Boissinot Archives The Canadian Press The future law aimed at protecting elected officials should not lead to an avalanche of fines against citizens, according to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Andrée Laforest

Isabelle Porter in Quebec

Published at 1:50 p.m.

  • Quebec

The future law aimed at protecting elected officials should not lead to an avalanche of fines against citizens, according to the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Andrée Laforest.

< p>“Honestly, I don’t think there are going to be many fines,” said Ms. Laforest in an interview with Le Duty.

Bill 57, which is about to be adopted in Parliament, exposes citizens to fines of $500 to $1,500 if they “obstruct the exercise of the functions of an elected official” by “threatening him, intimidating or harassing him in such a way as to cause him to reasonably fear for his integrity or his safety.”

It also gives elected officials the power to ask the Superior Court to intervene urgently by issuing an injunction to put an end to this type of situation.

The minister says she has received, since the 2018 elections, between 50 and 75 emails from elected officials facing such obstacles, “people who experienced a lot of intimidation, a lot of harassment”. She expects as many fines in the coming months, not much more.

It may not seem like much, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important, she says. “For me, 75 possibilities of criminal offense is enormous. I want to have less and less. »

The right to participate in public debates protected

The bill 57 has been the subject of strong criticism in recent weeks because it has been accused of undermining freedom of expression.

The league of rights and freedoms, various media , unions and several experts had sounded the alarm about possible abuses.

In response to these criticisms, Minister Laforest added in the bill that he aimed to protect elected officials “without restricting the right of any person to participate in public debates”.

Another addition: the Superior Court must “take into account the public interest » before evaluating a request for an injunction.

It was also clarified that it was not an “impediment” to the work of elected officials to “express, by any means, one's opinion while respecting the democratic values ​​of Quebec.”

The minister also points out that the adjective “abusive” has been added throughout the bill as a criterion for cracking down. “We must always keep that in mind,” she said.

Finally, in cases where the people being intimidated are deputies of the National Assembly, the Director General of Elections (DGE) would no longer be seized of appeals as provided for in the original version of the bill. The files will then be sent to the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP).

Despite these amendments, opinions remain divided on the bill. On Tuesday, Parti Québécois leader Paul St-Pierre Plamondon said it was “still too broad,” despite the improvements made.

“If ever the interpretation of the courts does not correspond to the protection of democracy and freedom of expression, a Parti Québécois government will intervene again. »

Another resignation

To his critics, Andrée Laforest retorts that she “had to act.” “We still have almost 800 resignations,” she says. Tuesday morning, the mayor of Bonaventure, in Gaspésie, was added to the list of resigning elected officials, she reports. The latter did not say he was a victim of intimidation, according to what Radio-Canada reported. However, he left office to preserve his “physical and mental health”.

Minister Laforest also mentions that citizens targeted by fines or injunctions always have “recourse” in “exaggerated situations”.

In addition to the measures related to intimidation, Bill 57 notably gives mayors on parental leave the possibility of voting remotely. It will also allow municipalities with 2,000 residents or less to have only four councilors instead of six.

Barring an unforeseen event, the new version of Bill 57 should be adopted by the end of the week.

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116