By Cara Zwibel
on April 22, 2013
CCLA has written to Montreal Councillor Alex Norris who planned to introduce a motion to repeal Montreal’s controversial bylaw: P-6. The bylaw requires individuals to provide prior notice to police of their meeting places and demonstration itineraries regardless of the size of the planned protest and without making any exceptions for spontaneous assemblies. The bylaw also prohibits individuals from wearing facial coverings at a public demonstration without reasonable cause. The bylaw has been used to clamp down on peaceful protests before they have even gotten underway and individuals have received tickets of over $600 each. CCLA wrote to Montreal’s City Council in May of 2012 when the amendments to the bylaw were first considered and passed. With recent mass arrests taking place under the bylaw, CCLA has again written to the City expressing its concerns and arguing for the need to protect fundamental freedoms, including the freedom to peacefully assemble and freedom of expression.
See CCLA’s letter regarding the motion to repeal P-6 in English here and in French here.
By Cara Zwibel
on April 4, 2013
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 Quebec’s new PQ government repealed Law 12 shortly after coming into power in September, but Montreal’s similar municipal bylaw remains in place.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.
Read the CCLA’s letter to the Mayor of Montreal.
Read the CCLA’s letter to the Chief of the SPVM.
By Abby Deshman
on March 20, 2013
From the Toronto G20 to the Occupy movement, the widespread (and continuing) protests in Quebec and the nation-wide Idle No More actions, individuals in Canada have been participating in their democracy through diverse and creative expressive acts. As a society we have also witnessed a range of government and police responses to these grassroots movements. And on numerous occasions in recent years CCLA has called out to municipal, provincial and federal government actors to respect and facilitate freedom of peaceful assembly. Although there have certainly been some examples of government effectively facilitating peaceful protest, there have been numerous instances over the past three years where CCLA believes that this freedom has been threatened or where constitutional rights were violated.
CCLA is now joining voices with civil society NGOs from across the globe to voice shared concerns and call on the United Nations to provide meaningful protection for freedom of peaceful assembly and human rights in the context of social protest.
On March 7, a letter signed by nine national organizations spanning five continents was sent to the Member States of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Democracies must welcome diverse forms of public participation. Such activities must be actively facilitated by states if they are to comply with their obligations to protect, respect and fulfill international human rights.
CCLA and our international counterparts welcome the renewed and increased attention to freedom of peaceful assembly and the protection of human rights, including freedom of association, expression and opinion, in the broader context of social protest. As domestically-focused actors with decades of experience monitoring policing and protest, the signatory organizations have seen first hand the diverse and multiple facets of the right to peaceful assembly and rights within the context of social protest more broadly. Although our individual domestic experiences stem from diverse political contexts and legal systems, we are united by our conviction that public protest is an essential component of any vibrant democracy. We are also united by our concern for the protection of this fundamental right.
A draft resolution, “The promotion and protection of human rights in the context of peaceful protests”, is being debated in Geneva and is scheduled for adoption at the 22nd Session of the Human Rights Council. The civil society organizations that have signed the letter are:
American Civil Liberties Union – ACLU (USA)
Association for Civil Rights in Israel – ACRI (Israel)
Canadian Civil Liberties Association – CCLA (Canada)
Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales – CELS (Argentina)
Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights – EIPR (Egypt)
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union – HCLU (Hungary)
Irish Council for Civil Liberties – ICCL (Ireland)
Legal Resource Centre – LRC (South Africa)
To read the letter to the UN Human Rights Council click here.
To read the joint press release from all nine organizations click here.
By Cara Zwibel
on February 21, 2013
CCLA has written to a Committee of Ottawa City Councillors considering a new special events bylaw. The bylaw requires that individuals and groups wishing to have special events seek a permit from the City. For large events of 300 people or more, a permit is required even when the event will take place on private property. The CCLA is concerned about the impact that the requirements contained in the bylaw may have on expressive freedoms and the freedom to peacefully assemble. The bylaw may have a particularly harsh impact on spontaneous demonstrations since, in most cases, the bylaw requires organizers to seek a permit at least 90 days in advance of the event. The permit holder is also responsible for obtaining significant insurance coverage, paying for medical services, paid-duty officers, and a variety of other services at their own expense. Policies and bylaws that require individuals to pay to exercise their fundamental rights have the effect of chilling expression and may discourage individuals from speaking out on matters of public importance.
Read the CCLA’s letter to the City of Ottawa here.
By Cara Zwibel
on January 15, 2013
CCLA has recently written to two universities about the issue of protests and demonstrations on campus. Universities are significant sites for discourse and debate and an environment where questioning the status quo should be welcomed. Policies around campus security and the use of campus space may, in some cases, unduly limit freedom of expression and peaceful assembly on campus. While these freedoms have limits, those limits must be justified by a compelling purpose and must be proportional to the purpose. The mere fact that a protest may cause disruption or inconvenience is not a sufficient basis for shutting it down or subjecting participants to disciplinary action.
McGill University is currently considering a draft Protocol Regarding Demonstrations, Protests and Occupations on McGill University Campuses. The University invited comments on the Protocol from members of the McGill community and CCLA has made submissions through that process. CCLA has also recently written to security personnel at York University to express concerns about the treatment of protests and demonstrations on campus.
Read CCLA’s submissions to McGill University here.
Read CCLA’s letter to York University here.
on June 12, 2012
Over the past few days news reports have emerged that the Montreal police service (Service de police de la Ville de Montréal or SPVM) were conducting dozens of “preventive arrests” and countless identity checks and searches in Montreal streets and subways. Today, CCLA Board Member Marie-Eve Sylvestre, a professor of law at the University of Ottawa, denounced these “illegal and illegitimate” arrests in the paper Le Devoir.
Read the full piece (in french) here.
By Abby Deshman
on May 22, 2012
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has severe concerns about the constitutional validity of Bill 78, which was passed by the Quebec National Assembly on May 18, 2012. The CCLA agrees that access to education and ensuring that instruction in schools, CEGEPs and universities is open and available for those who want to attend are pressing and substantial societal interests. Our concerns are not directed at this goal, but rather the means that the Quebec government has chosen to pursue it. Bill 78 drastically limits freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly rights in Quebec. It puts in place a number of prohibitions that are at best tenuously linked with the goal of ensuring access to postsecondary education. Even those provisions that do directly address access to educational institutions are frequently overly broad, vague and discretionary.
on May 16, 2012
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CCLA Demands Accountability for G20 Rights Violations in light of Scathing OIPRD Report into G20 Police Conduct
Calls for Immediate Action from Chief, Police Services Board
TORONTO, May 16 2012 – The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) today released its systemic review into policing during the 2010 Toronto G20. The Report confirms the position that Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has held from the outset: that mass violations of fundamental rights occurred throughout the downtown Toronto core over the G20 weekend. These rights violations were the result of systemic planning and training failures leading up to the G20, and specific orders and statements made by senior commanding officers during that weekend.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association calls on the Ontario government and police services to commit to a full and immediate implementation of the OIPRD recommendations, issue an unconditional apology, proactively pursue disciplinary measures for officers implicated in misconduct, and pursue criminal charges where appropriate. The Chief and the police services board need to take action against senior command officers responsible for the decisions that violated the civil liberties of hundreds of Canadians on June 26th and 27th. CCLA continues to believe that, given the severity of the rights violations that occurred on the G20 weekend, full political and police accountability is vital to rebuilding public trust in law enforcement and democratic institutions.
“We know what happened during the G20. We know that there were rights violations on a massive scale. What we need now is accountability,” said Abby Deshman, Public Safety Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “Transparency without accountability is unacceptable. We have multiple reports documenting in detail massive rights violations over that weekend. The individuals who were in charge need to accept responsibility and be held accountable. The Toronto Chief of Police needs to acknowledge what has happened, and apologize. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association calls on all police services to proactively pursue meaningful disciplinary measures for all officers implicated in misconduct that weekend. The Chief and the police services board need to take action against senior command officers responsible for the decisions that violated the civil liberties of hundreds of Canadians on June 26th and 27th.”
on May 16, 2012
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has written to the Mayor of Montreal, and to city councillors, to express its concerns regarding the City of Montreal’s proposed adoption of amendments to a bylaw that would make it illegal to wear a mask during a public demonstration, and that would require demonstrators to provide prior notification to police authorities of their meeting place and route.
on April 19, 2012
The CCLA has written a letter to the Université du Québec en Outaouais to communicate our concerns related to the arrest of Professor Thibault Martin earlier this week, and to invite the University to do everything in its power to ensure that charges brought against faculty and student participants in peaceful protests be dropped.
The CCLA believes that universities have a positive obligation to protect freedom of expression, which includes facilitating its exercise and minimizing any possible impediment to it.
Read the letter here (in French).
Read a CTV News article about the issue here.