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Soon up to $1,500 fine for citizens who intimidate elected officials?

Photo: Jacques Boissinot The Canadian Press The Minister of Municipal Affairs, Andrée Laforest, tabled Bill 57 on Wednesday aimed at protecting elected officials.

Isabelle Porter in Quebec

3:21 p.m.

  • Quebec

Citizens who intimidate municipal officials to the point of making them fear for their safety could within a few months be liable to fines, under a new bill.

The Minister of Municipal Affairs, Andrée Laforest, tabled Bill 57 on Wednesday aimed at protecting elected officials.

The text makes liable to a fine “anyone who obstructs the exercise of the functions of a deputy by threatening him, intimidating him or harassing him in such a way as to cause him to reasonably fear for his integrity or his safety”.< /p>

Fine amounts will range between $500 and $1500. They will be imposed on recalcitrants by municipal police forces or the Sûreté du Québec in small municipalities which do not have their own police department. A new protection regime will also apply to elected officials who sit in Parliament.

The municipal sector is, however, particularly targeted since citizens who cause “disorder” during municipal council meetings would also be exposed to new fines ranging from $50 to $500.

“We went as far as we can go,” declared Minister Laforest. “We’ve gone very, very far. »

The League of Rights and Freedoms concerned

Questioned about the possibility that elected officials would use these tools to muzzle critical citizens, Minister Laforest said she was confident that this would not happen. His office also emphasizes that the fines can be contested in court by the people targeted by the complaints.

“Citizens will always be able to defend themselves,” she said. “We are really dealing with situations of abuse. »

The bill also provides a mechanism allowing the filing of an injunction in Superior Court to put an end to situations of online or in-person bullying. Andrée Laforest says she targets “any threatening, harassing, intimidating or even violent behavior towards elected officials”.

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When it was pointed out to her that it was already possible to file a complaint with the police for threats, she replied that the bill would ensure that these cases were handled “urgently”. » thanks to the use of an injunction.

The League of Rights and Freedoms believes that this bill will need to be studied closely to avoid abuses. “Democratic debate occasionally involves protest movements, certain upheavals and disturbances,” warns its spokesperson Laurence Guénette.

Last summer, the league denounced the decision of the deputy mayor of Trois-Rivières to suspend a session and call the police when opponents of the Carrefour 40-55 project came to make themselves heard chanting a slogan with a large banner. She also criticizes the municipality for having sent a bailiff to a lady who had called a senior official incompetent on social networks.

We already know that the debate will continue in Parliament in parliamentary committee over the coming weeks, an opportunity for MPs to hear the interventions of different interest groups before voting on the bill .

The bill’s “blind spot”

With these measures, the minister says she wants to respond to the climate denounced in recent months by many elected officials. She recalls that since the last municipal elections, 741 elected officials have resigned. A few weeks ago, she announced the creation of a psychological help line for mayors and councilors.

The bill is, however, much less muscular with regard to intimidation between elected officials, a phenomenon often denounced by municipal elected officials in recent months.

For Jasmine Sharma, municipal councilor in Vaudreuil-Dorion, who created a coalition to denounce intimidation, tensions between elected officials constitute the “blind spot” of the bill.

The bill certainly aims to force all municipalities to adopt an internal management code to govern the conduct of municipal council meetings. “In a municipal council, this is where we often see several excesses,” argued Ms. Laforest.

However, according to Ms. Sharma, it is necessary to specify what a good internal management code must include. This is immediately a “first step” according to her, since tensions between elected officials are not only experienced during council meetings, but on other occasions such as plenary committees for example.

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