NEWS
05/15/2014 11:58 EDT | Updated 07/15/2014 05:59 EDT

Maple Spring student protest report criticizes police tactics

Quebec student groups and activists are welcoming a report on the 2012 student protests that condemns the former Liberal government for its handling of the social movement, and criticizes the police force's uses of crowd control tactics.

The report was quietly released on Wednesday evening, when most Quebecers were glued to their TV screens watching the Montreal Canadiens play the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

The 450-page report outlines 28 different recommendations, 21 of which concern police tactics during the nearly 700 protests that took place during the spring and summer of 2012.

The report also criticizes the former Jean Charest Liberal government for not making more of an effort to mediate with students.

Maple Spring report highlights:

- Limit the use of batons, pepper spray and stun grenades to control crowds.

- Suspend the application of article 500.1 of the province's Highway Safety Code to justify mass arrests until it can be debated in court.

- Recognize students' right to strike following a secret ballot, by clarifying the law of certification and financing for student associations.

- Require protest organizers to notify public authorities of a demonstration ahead of time, except in cases of spontaneous demonstrations.

- The minister of public security should remind police forces that crowd control strategies should only be used in exceptional cases and that a peaceful protest does not need to be dispersed just because of the actions of a few individuals.

Anarchopanda, the student protest mascot, told CBC's Daybreak he’s happy the report places so much emphasis on police action.

"People who commit crimes, police have a right to intervene against them, but protesting is not ... a crime and should not, therefore, be targeted by the police," said Anarchopanda mascot and CÉGEP philosophy professor Julien Villeneuve.

Benjamin Gingras, the spokesman for the student group that was at the centre of the 2012 protests — Association pour une Solidarité Syndicale Étudiante​ (ASSÉ) — said he wasn't surprised to see police tactics criticized in the report.

“We hope that the current government won’t make the same mistakes that the previous government made in regards to contempt towards the student movement.”

While ASSÉ acknowledges the report does shed light on several key problems, the student group remains critical of some aspects of the report.

ASSÉ believes mass arrests need to be banned completely. 

The group also denounces the report for recommending that student groups use secret ballots to vote to strike.

Background on Maple Spring report

In May 2013, the Parti Québécois government's public security minister, Stéphane Bergeron, set up a special committee chaired by former PQ minister Serge Ménard, to provide an overall picture of the events of spring 2012, as well as determine how demonstrations against tuition fee hikes escalated to such an extreme.

A number of protesters were injured at one particularly violent demonstration in Victoriaville, Que., after clashing with police.

The report says policing student demonstrations during the Maple Spring cost the province nearly $26 million.

Read the full report (French) 

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