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The bill to protect elected officials is adopted

Photo: iStock Bill 57, which aims to protect elected officials, was adopted in the National Assembly on Thursday.

Thomas Laberge – The Canadian Press in Quebec

Published yesterday at 11:55 a.m. Updated yesterday at 11:12 p.m.

  • Quebec

Citizens who intimidate, harass or “abusively” obstruct the work of an elected official will be liable to a fine of up to $1,500. Bill 57, which aims to protect elected officials, was unanimously adopted in the National Assembly on Thursday.

The legislative piece follows a significant wave of municipal elected officials who resigned in recent months due to the difficult climate in which they had to do their work. The hasty departure of the mayor of Gatineau, France Bélisle, last February, caused a shock wave in the municipal community.

The new law will allow an elected official to appeal to the Superior Court to issue an injunction against a citizen who threatens, intimidates or harasses him.

Bill 57 has been the subject of criticism from social groups, unions as well as press company bosses. There were fears that it could infringe on freedom of expression.

Faced with these criticisms, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, Andrée Laforest, agreed to amend her legislative piece. It was specified that it aims to protect elected officials “from threats, harassment and intimidation, without restricting the right of any person to participate in public debates”.

The bill also indicates that the Court will have to evaluate requests “taking into account the public interest” and that it is not an “impediment to expressing, by any means, one's opinion in respect of the democratic values ​​of Quebec”.

Also, it should have initially been the Director General of Elections who should have initiated proceedings against a citizen who threatens or obstructs the work of an elected representative of the National Assembly. The bill was amended so that this responsibility was instead entrusted to the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions.

Also read

  • Minister Laforest does not expect many fines to protect elected officials
  • Quebec launches a psychological help line for municipal elected officials

“Restoring the balance”

The opposition parties had also expressed reservations about the minister's bill. They ultimately all voted in favor, while remaining cautious for the future.

Solidarity deputy Etienne Grandmont said he was satisfied with the balance obtained thanks to the amendments.

“We have worked hard to restore the balance between the protection of elected officials and the guarantee of the fundamental right to freedom of expression of citizens,” said he indicated in a press release, adding that the bill remained “imperfect”.

“The rigorous work of parliamentarians, during the detailed study of Bill 57, and the adoption of certain amendments which go in the right direction, reassured us. We must hope that its implementation will protect our municipal elected officials without undermining our precious freedom of expression,” indicated Liberal MP Michelle Setlakwe.

« We will have to be vigilant to ensure that, through successive judgments and case law, we do not end up restricting freedom of expression or freedom of peaceful association, which would be contrary to the protection of fundamental rights,” argued PQ leader Joël Arseneau.

The municipalities, for their part, applauded the new law.

< p>“The adoption of this law represents major progress for our municipal democracy. Municipal officials are fully invested in improving their communities. We must continue to create favorable conditions so that they can serve their communities with all their competence and energy,” said the president of the Union of Municipalities of Quebec, Martin Damphousse.

“I am convinced that the Law will achieve a healthy balance to ensure both respect and the security of elected officials, as well as the protection of the citizen voice, exchanges and debates which are part of a healthy democracy,” said the president of the Fédération québécoise des municipalities, Jacques Demers.

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