06/27/2012 03:58 EDT | Updated 08/27/2012 05:12 EDT

Challenge to Quebec protest law suffers court setback

MONTREAL - An attempt to challenge Quebec's controversial protest law has suffered a setback in court, as a judge refused Wednesday to grant a temporary suspension of certain provisions in Bill 78.

Justice Francois Rolland of Quebec Superior Court said there needs to be a deeper social debate before a court can intervene in the issue.

Lawyers representing student federations, unions and other groups were trying to get parts of Bill 78 — the specific sections dealing with public protest — temporarily suspended.

Those same groups are also hoping to challenge the constitutionality of the entire law, later, in a separate case where they will argue that it violates basic rights.

So far, the parts of the law that have received the most attention are the ones dealing with protests — the ones lawyers were in court fighting in recent weeks.

Those provisions require eight hours' notice for a protest and require organizers to supply police with an itinerary. That element of the law has been virtually ignored with police using municipal bylaws, instead of the provincial legislation, to ticket certain protesters. Over recent weeks, the nightly demonstrations in Montreal have progressively gotten smaller.

But now, as the summer continues, attention may shift to other parts of the law.

Bill 78 also forbids people from blocking access to schools and sets severe penalties for people who do so. That would restrict students' ability to enforce strike votes and to prevent peers from going back to class if they choose to do so.

The law sets a mid-August return to school for students who went on strike in the spring, and calls for the winter-spring session to be wrapped up by mid-September.

About one-third of Quebec post-secondary students have yet to finish their winter-spring session because their schools or associations have voted to strike.