The Quebec Superior Court has granted approval for a class action lawsuit to proceed to trial, in a case against the city of Montreal for the alleged abuse and mass arrest of more than 500 student protesters during a university tuition demonstration on May 23, 2012.
The case was filed by Jean-Pierre Lord, a student at the Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), who was one of 508 students arrested and detained at the demonstration that night. He asks for $7,500 per arrested student—$2,500 each for arrest, detention, and human rights violation.
In the demonstration in question, police herded a large group of protestors into 17 buses at approximately 1 a.m. Lord claims that the conditions of their detainment were unpleasant.
“Eight hours […] of detention, in the bus, the window’s closed,” Lord told the CBC. “It was extremely hot; many people were sick.”
The motion also says each protester was forced to have their hands tied behind their back and denied access to water or bathrooms. Upon their release, each protester received a $634 fine for conducting an illegal protest.
The City of Montreal argued that Lord’s lawsuit was groundless since the protest was declared illegal. A protest can be declared illegal if the organizers do not report it to the police beforehand or have their route approved by city officials.
The court dismissed the city’s claim, calling it “frivolous,” and permitted the lawsuit based on the mass arrests, the detention, and the conditions of detention.
According to Vice-President External of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU) Sam Harris, SSMU could theoretically provide support—for example, financially—for the lawsuit if their members were involved, but they have no current plans to become involved.
“We haven’t had SSMU members come up to us asking for any help in this regard, so I don’t know if we would get involved in any way,” Harris said. “Obviously, we condemn police abuse, but we also need to let the court case play its course.”
While he does not know of any McGill students who were arrested in that protest, Harris believes that some must have been from McGill.
The trial will begin in early 2014.