Lawyers protest silently against Bill 78

Lawyer Robert Tremblay dances with masked protesters during demo against tuition hike and Bill 78 near Berri street on Monday May 28, 2012.

(Vancouver Sun)Although they are sworn to uphold the laws of the land, hundreds of lawyers marched through Montreal streets Monday in a subdued challenge to Bill 78, which limits public protests.

“We don’t want to break the law but we want to contest it,” explained Pierre, a 23-year-old articling lawyer who would not give his last name. He was among an estimated 500 to 700 lawyers, notaries and other legal professionals who marched in their black robes and in near silence from the Montreal courthouse to Place Émilie-Gamelin, where they were greeted by wildly cheering protesters gathered for their own nightly march.

There were several protests Monday night against planned tuition fee hikes and Bill 78. It was the 35th consecutive night of protests in the city and as of 9:30 p.m. police reported no arrests.

Ironically the lawyers’ protest was in perfect accordance with the law they ardently oppose. Organizers gave police their planned itinerary more than eight hours before the march.

Rémi Bourget, one of the organizers of the march, said some lawyers were worried they might be fined under Bill 78 for participating in the protest. “That’s why we especially wanted to march legally, in our black robes and in silence,” Bourget said.

Denis Barrette, a lawyer in his 50s, said Bill 78 is a serious hit against fundamental rights of free and peaceful assembly that people have under the Canadian and Quebec charters of rights.

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