The CCLA is deeply concerned about the Montreal police force’s use of a controversial municipal bylaw to cut off social protests before they begin, detain individuals en masse, and issue costly tickets to individuals seeking to exercise their constitutionally protected rights.
In May of 2012 Montreal’s City Council adopted amendments to a bylaw that made it illegal to wear a mask during a public demonstration and required demonstrators to provide prior notification to police of their meeting place and route. At that time, CCLA wrote to the Mayor and city councillors expressing our concerns about the bylaw – in particular that these provisions placed unnecessary and unconstitutional restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, both of which are protected under the Canadian and Quebec Charters. While these freedoms may be subject to limits or restrictions, such restrictions can only be put in place where there is a demonstrated compelling and pressing objective and where the measures taken to achieve the objective do not infringe on rights more than necessary. Restrictions similar to those included in the Montreal bylaw were also in a controversial piece of provincial legislation in Quebec, Bill 78 (which subsequently became Law 12). Quebec’s new PQ government repealed Law 12 shortly after coming into power in September, but Montreal’s similar municipal bylaw remains in place.
In a series of recent demonstrations in Montreal, the Service de police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM) has used the bylaw to “kettle” demonstrators when they fail to provide the police with a route for their demonstration. In three instance in March of 2013, police put an end to demonstrations before they even began and issued hundreds of tickets under the bylaw for over $600 each. In CCLA’s view, individuals should not have to pay to exercise their fundamental freedoms, nor should police engage in mass arrests and detentions of peaceful social protesters. CCLA has written to the Mayor of Montreal urging repeal of the bylaw and to the Chief of the SPVM urging the police to cease engaging in these troubling practices.