Last year the United Nations ranked it as the sixth best country to live in the world. This week, it’s calling Canada a human rights violator, slamming it for a new anti-protest law that was passed in the province of Quebec. “Moves to restrict freedom of assembly in many parts of the world are alarming,” said Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. “In the context of student protests, I am disappointed by the new legislation passed in Quebec that restricts their rights to freedom of association and of peaceful assembly.”
The National Assembly of Quebec passed Bill 78 on May 18 after months of student protests against rising tuition fees in the province. The law requires organizers of protests involving 50 or more people to notify the police with details of the demonstration eight hours beforehand. Offenders are required to pay daily fines ranging from $1,000 to $125,000, depending on their involvement and leadership role in the protests.
In response to Pillay’s statement, Hillel Neuer, the director of UN Watch, a human rights organization that monitors UN compliance with its own charter, argued that even though Canada is fair game for criticism, it is “simply absurd” to highlight Canada without citing violations in countries such as China, Belarus, and Cuba. “When a prosecutor goes after jaywalkers while allowing rapists and murderers to roam free, that’s not only illogical, but immoral,” added Neuer.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International said Bill 78 “breaches Canada’s international human rights obligations”.