Authoritarianism can have many faces.
We tend to depict it with extreme images such as slavery, dictatorship and oppression––but not all forms are as explicitly visible. And one of the worst kinds is silencing the opposition.
This rigid tactic is starting to be the trademark of Prime Minister François Legault and the Coalition Avenir––the current centre-right Quebec Government.
Last week, I wrote about Britain’s lack of urgency when it comes to dealing with Brexit—well, over here, we have a government that’s dangerously in a hurry. When it comes to passing bills, the CAQ is a bulldozer.
Late Friday night, it invoked closure for the fourth time in less than eight months, to pass Bill 40. The procedure allows the government in power to limit debates over legislation, even though some National Assembly members who wished to speak haven’t had the time to do so.
Despite severe critics coming from the educational system, 60 over 35 voted in favour of Bill 40, abolishing Quebec’s francophone and anglophone school boards. Additionally, in a last-minute decision, the original transition period of two weeks was eliminated, immediately kicking many commissioners out of their elected positions.
It was widely reported that school boards, teachers’ unions and English-language lobby groups, among the opposition parties condemned the government for rushing into an intense reform that needed more time and more consultation.
What was Legault’s response to evoking closure? “The opposition was ‘obstructing’ the passage of the law,” he said while speaking to reporters in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.
Yet, this is the entire purpose of the opposition: balancing powers and ensuring democratic debates over issues such as this one. Why was the CAQ quick to act so undemocratically?
Well, simply take a look at another controversial bill that was passed under closure; when Bill 21––the secularism law—was voted in last spring. The English Montreal School Board (EMSB) has since been one of the loudest opposition voices, in challenging Bill 21. If the board that’s challenging Legault’s precious laicity law doesn’t exist anymore, can the fight continue?
“Faire d’une pierre, deux coups,” they say—and the CAQ is striking hard.
Graphic by @sundaeghost