There's nothing to be proud of for limiting anti-vaccine protests in Quebec, says opposition critic

Quebec should not be proud of passing a bill banning any demonstration related to COVID-19 within 50 meters of thousands of establishments, said opposition critic Andrés Fontecilla on Friday.

"To say that it is a glorious day for Quebec democracy because we restrict a fundamental right, I will not go that far," he said in an interview with The Canadian Press. 

The party's public security critic reflected on what has been described by the François Legault government as a "great day" after Bill 105 unanimously passed in the National Assembly Thursday.

The new bill temporarily bans anti-vaccine protesters from demonstrating too close to daycares, schools, CEGEPs and all health and social service institutions, including COVID-19 screening and vaccination clinics.

It also allows police to impose stiff fines on anyone who organizes, incites or participates in an anti-vaccine demonstration within 50 metres of these locations.

Fontecilla called the law a "security and punitive overkill." 

"Yes, protecting our children, staff ... or vulnerable people is something that must be done ... but there was a kind of triumphalism that was going on."

INTERNAL DEBATES WITHIN QS

Fontecilla admits that Bill 105 has been the subject of heated debate within his own party since Premier Legault announced he would table it.

He says the party would have preferred the bill to only regulate demonstrations that aim to dissuade a person from being vaccinated against COVID-19 or from respecting sanitary measures.

"Did we act too quickly?" asked Fontecilla. "That's for history to say. I think we could have discussed at greater length certain elements of this law."

He says he recognizes that there was an "urgent need to act" to prevent children, in particular, from being intimidated by conspiracy theorists at lunch time. 

However, Fontecilla said he was "angry" that the law included CEGEPs, where older students "are perfectly capable of being exposed to political debate and making informed decisions."

Bill 105 was passed unanimously in the National Assembly, though Independent MNA Claire Samson, who joined the Conservative Party of Quebec, abstained from voting.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Sept. 23, 2021. 

Newsletters

Breaking News alerts, info on contests, and special offers from partners