(originally published on dialogicmediation.com)
Last night on television's Saturday Night Live, Montreal-based rock band Arcade Fire wore the Quebec student movement's emblematic red squares and, in doing so, focused attention on the unrest that has been taking place in the province over the last 14 weeks about proposed tuition increases.
Here's one example of the public discourse about the student protest:
On Wednesday, a masked enforcement squad swept through the campus at the Université du Québec à Montréal, hunting for students who had dared to show up for class. Wherever they found a class in session, they broke in and shouted “Scab!” in the students’ faces. The enforcement squad was defying a court injunction that ordered the university to open. They jumped on desks and tables and spray-painted slogans on the classroom walls. They grabbed two female students by the arm and told them to get out. [...]
These masked young men and women are the children of the celebrated Quebec model, which shares a certain mindset with the not-so-celebrated Greek model. The state owes us everything, and if we don’t get it, we’ll riot in the streets!
Before the Quebec National Assembly, after an all-night session on Friday, June 18th, passed special legislation dealing with the unrest, the head of the Quebec Bar stated:
« J’estime que ce projet de loi, s’il est adopté, porte des atteintes aux droits constitutionnels et fondamentaux des citoyens. L’ampleur de ces limitations aux libertés fondamentales n’est pas justifiée pour atteindre les objectifs visés par le gouvernement », souligne le bâtonnier du Québec, Me Louis Masson, Ad. E.
« Dans son analyse préliminaire, le Barreau du Québec est notamment préoccupé par les limitations apportées au droit d’association et au droit de manifestation. De plus, nous critiquons la judiciarisation des débats et le recours à la justice pénale prévus dans le projet de loi », ajoute le bâtonnier Masson. "I believe that this Bill, if passed, will constitute violations to the fundamental and constitutional rights of citizens.
The scope of these limits to fundamental freedoms is not justified by the ends sought by the government, emphasizes the bâtonnier of Québec, Maître Louis Masson.
"In its preliminary analysis, the Quebec Bar is particularly preoccupied by restraints on freedom of assembly and the right to demonstrate. Moreover, we criticize placing public debate in a judicial context, and the recourse to criminal law provided for in this Bill," adds bâtonnier Masson. [rough translation]
But two days before this communiqué, the Quebec Bar issued a news release stating in part:
Le Barreau du Québec souhaite que les pourparlers reprennent et qu’une véritable médiation soit mise en place dans un climat serein et propice au dialogue. « Nous recommandons qu’une médiation soit menée par trois experts indépendants et impartiaux qui composeraient un conseil de médiation neutre et objectif. Le choix de ces médiateurs, sans aucun lien avec le gouvernement ou les fédérations étudiantes, permettrait aux parties de revenir à la table avec une ouverture totale à l’identification de solutions de sortie de crise », conclut le bâtonnier Masson. The Quebec Bar calls for talks to be resumed and for genuine mediation to take place in the calmness favourable to dialogue.
''We recommend that mediation be held by a panel of three independent and impartial experts. The choice of such mediators, without any link to the government or to student federations, will allow the parties to return to the table with complete openness to identifying exit strategies to the crisis,'' concludes bâtonnier Masson. [rough translation]
Now, it is univerally accepted that mediation is an impartial process of dispute resolution.
How is the Quebec government to accept the Barreau call for mediation when the Barreau subsequently strongly criticizes Quebec legislation to deal with the protests? Where's the impartiality and disinterestedness? (Please note I'm arguing how to establish a 'calmness favourable to dialogue' and deliberately abstaining from arguing the merits or flaws of the Quebec legislation.) Admittedly, the Barreau did not suggest that it or its members be involved in the mediation. Nonetheless, the proposed mediation, an honourable proposal as such, is coloured by taking sides on the legislation.