Now in its 4th year, the annual national RightsWatch conference will be held in Montreal, Quebec, October 12-13th 2012. Hosted by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism at McGill, the conference will take place at the Faculty of Law at McGill.

This year the conference is entitled Civil Liberties: People, Power and Protest and a wide range of national and international speakers will be invited to share their perspectives on numerous facets of this theme.In general, the conference is designed to expose law students, lawyers, and those interested in civil liberties and human rights issues to the important public interest cases and issues that are constantly arising in our society and encourage them to think critically about these issues. It also serves as a training opportunity for law students across the country who work on the PBSC-CCLA RightsWatch Blog.Prominent speakers from academic institutions, law firms, government and public interest organizations will be invited to participate to get as wide a perspective on these issues as possible.

CCLA has applied for CLE accreditation from the Quebec Bar – further information will be posted shortly.

2012 Agenda



Friday October 12

6:00 pm                  Introductory remarks – Colleen Sheppard, Professor of law and Director of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, McGill Univerity, and Nathalie Des Rosiers, General Counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association

Keynote Address – Romeo Saganash – MP, Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou

7:00 – 8:00             Welcome Reception


Saturday October 13


8:30 – 9:00          Registration


9:00 – 10:30        Plenary session – Voting with your feet: democracy and freedom of peaceful assembly  (bilingual)

Jamie Cameron, Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School

Dominique Clement, Professor, University of Alberta

Jacinthe Poisson, student, McGill Faculty of Law

Moderator: Nathalie Des Rosiers, General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association

This panel will address the interaction between democracy and freedom of peaceful assembly.  The historical Canadian context will be discussed, with historical examples of government restrictions on peaceful assembly and state reactions to public protest.  The current legal framework protecting peaceful assembly and freedom of expression will be reviewed, and Jacinthe Poisson will draw on her recent experiences as a protester during the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto to talk about contemporary issues involving these rights.


11:00 – 12:30      Plenary Session – Policing and protest: international perspectives (bilingual)

James Welch, Legal Director, Liberty (United Kingdom)

Sheldon Magardie, Cape Town Regional Director, Legal Resources Centre (South Africa)

Luciana Pol, Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (Argentina)

Lila Margalit, Association for Civil Rights in Israel

Moderator: Mohsen al Attar, Visiting Professor 2012-2013 McGill University, Senior Lecturer University of Auckland

This panel will bring international experts from around the world to discuss the policing and protest context in their home countries.  Representatives from various civil society organizations will provide an overview of recent protest and policing events in their own countries, as well as the legal frameworks governing protest and remedies for rights violations.


12:30 – 1:30        Lunch


1:30– 3:00           Concurrent sessions


  • Panel 1 – Police oversight and accountability – changing the expectations, evaluating the models  (English)

David Eby, Executive Director, BC Civil Liberties Association

Kent Roach, Professor, University of Toronto Faculty of Law

Gerry McNeilly, Director, Office of the Independent Police Review Director, Ontario

Moderator: Senator Vernon White

This panel will review various models of police oversight and accountability and discuss shortcomings of current systems. The topic will be approached both from the complainants’ perspective as well as from a more academic, theoretical evaluation.  Specific lessons will be drawn from the attempt to impose accountability and oversight during the Toronto G20, highlighting problems unique to cross-jurisdictional policing efforts.

  • Panel 2 – Protest, peaceful assembly, and free expression: Quebec and Comparative views (français, in cooperation with the Canadian Bar Association)

Introductory remarks: Philippe Dufresne, B.C.L, LL.B., Chair of the Constitutional and human rights section, Canadian Bar Association – Quebec Branch

Jennifer Turner, Human Rights Researcher, American Civil Liberties Union

Christian Brunelle, Professeur, Université Laval

Annick Desjardins, lawyer, Canadian Union of Public Employees

Moderator: Pearl Eliadis, B.C.L., LL.B., B.C.L. (Oxon.). Human rights lawyer and lecturer in Civil Liberties, McGill University

The rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression constitute fundamental values of all democracies. Although the responsibility to protect these rights lies first and foremost with the state, its various constitutive organs – the legislative, executive or judicial branch – may at times also restrict their exercise under the principle that the recognition of rights and freedoms is inseparable from the rights and freedoms of others, general welfare and public safety. These restrictions may be legitimate insofar as they are justified and proportionate to the objectives they seek. Across the world various laws have been adopted, at one time or another, permanently or temporarily, and at times in response to specific situations as was recently the case in Quebec. The speakers will discuss the social, political, historical and legal issues underpinning the difficult exercise of balancing clashing values, both nationally and internationally.

3:15 – 4:30           Concurrent sessions

  • Panel 1 – From racial to social profiling?  (français)

Fo Niemi, Executive Director, Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations

Noël Saint-Pierre, lawyer

Paul Eid, Professor of Sociology, l’Université du Québec à Montréal

Lucie Lemonde, Professor, Université du Québec à Montréal

Moderator: Tamara Thermitus, Justice Canada

This panel will look at profiling in policing, addressing the history of charges of racial profiling as well as more recent outcry over ‘social’ profiling.  Racial profiling has been a topic of particular concern for decades, and as illustrated by recent reports continues to be at the forefront of public consciousness.  Recently, however, attention has also turned to social profiling – the use of a person’s status (homeless, mental health, student, activist, etc.) by police, security services, members of the public and others to stereotypically anticipate their actions and justify policing responses.

  • Panel 2 – Privacy and the right to dissent: new technology, new techniques, new concerns? (English)

Paul Champ, lawyer, Champ & Associates

Stephen McCammon, counsel, Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario

Chief Inspector Fady Dagher, Service de police de la Ville de Montréal

Moderator: Valerie Steeves, Professor, University of Ottawa

This panel will discuss the implications new technology holds for privacy and freedom of expression. Advances in computer and video surveillance technologies have given police, employers, and the government novel tools to monitor individual movement and expression.  Some claim these technologies will increase law enforcement efficiency, effectiveness, and to allow governments to police communities in the digital age.  Privacy advocates are raising concerns regarding the implications of these tools.  Are these necessary law enforcement tools for the digital age, or unwarranted threats to privacy?  Are our existing constitutional framework, the privacy laws that aim to protect personal information, and the bodies in charge of enforcing them, sufficient?  And what is the link between privacy and freedom of expression?


4:30 – 4:45           Plenary session –  Wrap up, thank you


The panel entitled, “Protest, peaceful assembly, and free expression: Quebec and Comparative views” was organized in partnership with the Quebec Division of the Canadian Bar Association.  Many thanks to the CBA organizing committee Audrey Boctor, Pearl Eliadis and Manon Monpetit.


  • A special training session for CCLA/PBSC RightsWatch bloggers on the second day of the conference.
  • Networking and discussion with Canada’s various civil liberties organizations
  • The Annual General Meeting of members of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

>> Register Now

RightsWatch 2012 is sold out.


2012 Sponsors

Major Sponsors

Simultaneous Translation Services supported by: 


Friends of Civil Liberties