By Cara Zwibel
on November 7, 2011
The “Occupy Wall Street” movement spread to Canada in mid-October with protests and occupations beginning in a number of cities around the country on October 15, 2011. CCLA is concerned that a number of cities have recently started to suggest that protestors must leave and are considering taking various forms of action to put an end to the protests. All Canadians have the right to expression and to peaceful assembly in public spaces and protests are an important and meaningful manifestation of these rights. Any limitations placed on these rights must be tied to a compelling and pressing objective and must be narrowly tailored in a way that restricts rights as little as possible. CCLA is concerned that the actions of some cities do not meet these requirements and that, in some instances, city officials may not be paying sufficient attention to constitutionally protected rights.
Each situation is unique, and it is impossible to generally assert what a constitutional standard would allow without examining the facts in each case. City officials must work with protestors in each city to try to resolve concerns about health, safety, and peaceful enjoyment of city property by all members of the public. In any case where a city is concerned about protest activities, dialogue with protestors should be the first step. There are many examples of instances where protestors and city officials have managed to work together to ensure that rights to expression, to peaceful assembly and to protest have been respected while addressing concerns voiced by city officials about health and safety, and ensuring that public space is available for other, pre-planned events. For example, protests in Halifax voluntarily left their protest site in order to accommodate two pre-planned ceremonies organized by the City. They agreed to temporarily relocate and will return to their site once the events are over. Along similar lines, protestors in a number of cities have taken steps to comply with various health and safety requirements to ensure that emergency crews can access sites if circumstances so require.
Despite what appear to be several positive examples, CCLA is concerned about some municipalities’ demands that protestors leave sites and threats that have been made to begin charging individuals with trespass or by-law infractions. Such action was taken in London, Ontario when the City warned protestors in an open letter that they could face trespass charges if they continue to stay in the park overnight. In Québec City the City has sent an eviction notice to protestors and the Mayor issued an order that police, fire department and other city workers seize materials they said represented a fire hazard, with threats that tents and permanent installations would be removed next. In Victoria, British Columbia, the Mayor has threatened to shut down the camp, set a deadline of noon on Monday, November 7, 2011 for the protestors to vacate and threatened that those who don’t comply will be fined. Where resolution of disputes cannot be achieved through negotiation, the matter should be referred to a court so that all those involved can be heard by an impartial and independent adjudicator. Public spaces belong to the public, and City officials should not unilaterally issue “eviction notices” or start ticketing where members of the public are exercising constitutionally protected rights. Moreover, CCLA is deeply concerned about the enforcement of municipal by-laws that may place considerable restrictions on expression and peaceful assembly. Many of these by-laws may not comply with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, if challenged, could be struck down as unconstitutional. Using the existence of largely unconstitutional laws to threaten individuals who are peacefully exercising their democratic rights is entirely unacceptable.
CCLA has prepared some resources that may be helpful for protestors in understanding their rights. Please note that each situation is unique and you should consult a lawyer for questions about your specific circumstances and geographic location.
CCLA’s Know Your Rights Guide – Protestors’ Edition can be found here. A shorter pamphlet version is also available here.
on October 16, 2011
On Saturday October 15th, thousands of people peacefully protested in the streets and parks of downtown Toronto. The gathering continued overnight and into Sunday, as protestors occupied St. James Park.
CCLA civil liberties monitors, who were present for the march and occupation on Saturday, witnessed police interacting positively with the crowd and facilitating a robust expression of democratic freedoms. CCLA applauds the Toronto Police Service for their actions in protecting democratic rights and freedoms, and urges the city to continue to respect individuals’ Charter rights to peaceful assembly and expression.
on June 24, 2011
On Thursday June 23rd, over 100 people gathered at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law to listen to a panel discussion featuring lawyers and activists to discuss police accountability and the lessons learned amid the aftermath of the G20 controversy.
For the video archive of the discussion + Q&A session, please click here
Bob Hepburn introducing the panelists
Meaghan Daniel and Clayton Ruby
John Sewell, and Barb Byers from the CLC
By Cara Zwibel
on June 2, 2011
The CCLA has written to the City of Edmonton expressing concerns over the way in which it has dealt with the planned Edmonton Slut Walk – scheduled to take place on Saturday, June 4, 2011. Despite ample notice from organizers about the event, the City only recently advised of a significant fee that organizers would have to pay for road closures and police presence. These fees were imposed even though organizers intended to march on the sidewalk and did not request police attendance. CCLA believes that individuals should not have to pay to exercise their fundamental Charter rights. Freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly are all Charter protected. Policies that require people to pay to exercise these rights have the effect of chilling expression and discourage participation in our democratic system.
The CCLA has written to the City of Edmonton to express our concerns and encourage the City to review its policies in light of the Charter. Read a copy of the CCLA’s letter here.
By Cara Zwibel
on April 14, 2011
This op-ed was originally published on Canada.com as part of their Real Agenda series for the 2011 federal election
In the past year, Canada’s streets have been home to a wide variety of public protests and demonstrations. From the Vancouver Olympics to the Toronto G20, from Pride parades to poverty protests to Falun Gong demonstrations, many Canadians have taken to the streets in an effort to have their voices heard on the issues that matter most to them.
Protests and demonstrations are valid and important means of political expression, and Canadians are not doing a good enough job in jealously guarding our basic rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.
Having said that, getting out on the streets to protest is not for everyone, and active participation in democracy can take many forms. For some, Internet message boards and blogs provide an outlet to vent frustrations or engage in dialogue. For others, a simple click on the word “like” on a Facebook page is the way to connect to something larger – a group of people who share our views, or a cause that is close to our hearts.
An election campaign is our opportunity to exercise our democratic rights in a tangible way – by voting. In the lead-up, we may watch debates, read party platforms, or attend campaign events to help us make informed decisions. Unfortunately, in an election brought about because of concerns about a lack of openness and transparency, the campaign itself has only served to highlight a real democratic deficit. Read more…
By Sukanya Pillay
on February 8, 2011
For days we’ve been riveted watching Egyptians courageously mobilize in Cairo’s Tahrir Square demanding democracy. They call for a true representation of the people, a representation providing full civil liberties and human rights. The rights to freedom of assembly, expression and opinion lie at the heart of any democracy. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association met twice in the last year with Hossam Bahgat and Soha Abdelaty of the Egyptian civil liberties organization ‘Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights’ and listened as they described their work to advance fundamental freedoms. Today we support them and all Egyptians who peacefully assemble to express themselves and demand a free society guaranteeing fundamental rights and freedoms for all. To read Hossam Bahgat and Soha Abdelaty’s op-ed in the Washington Post, click here http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/02/04/AR2011020404123.html
By Graeme Norton
on November 29, 2010
November 29, 2010 – Toronto – Jaggi Singh will be in court this week to challenge a bail condition that prohibits him from organizing or participating in any form of public demonstration. The condition was imposed on Mr. Singh following his arrest on conspiracy charges relating to the June 2010 G20 Summit.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is opposed to this type of bail condition, which has been imposed on numerous social demonstrators arrested in connection with the G20 Summit. The phrasing and broad scope of these bail terms create a significant risk of misinterpretation, have a punitive impact and are not rationally connected to the promotion of public safety. In the CCLA’s view, these terms are an unacceptable restriction of constitutional rights and should be revoked.
Bail conditions that unduly restrict peaceful political activity fail to appropriately balance concerns about public safety or the commission of future crimes with Charter rights, such as freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful assembly. When persons are arrested in the context of public demonstrations and are only released on the condition that they refrain from publicly expressing their opinions, it amounts to an attempt to silence debate and criticisms of the government.
The CCLA has previously written to the Attorney General of Ontario to ask him to take action against the use of this type of bail condition.
A copy of our letter to the Attorney General can be downloaded here.
A copy of the Attorney General’s reply can be downloaded here.
(416) 363-0321 ex. 225
on September 13, 2010
On Tuesday, September 14th, 2010 at 4:00PM, the Toronto Police Serviced Board will be holding a special meeting to consider the Terms of Reference for its Independent Civilian Review of G20 policing. At this meeting, the Board will be asked to approve draft Terms or Reference that were prepared by outside legal counsel. The special meeting will be held in the auditorium at Police Headquarters, 40 College Street, 2nd Floor. The meeting will be open to the public. You can read the agenda and the draft Terms of Reference here.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association will continue to closely monitor these developments. Check back soon for more updates on post-G20 activities.
August 24, 2010
November 5, 2010
24 August 2010 — The G8/G20 Summits in Huntsville and Toronto, Ontario, respectively, resulted in the largest peace-time security deployment Canadian history. The federal government spent C$930-million on security and deployed 5000 RCMP officers and thousands of provincial and municipal police into the streets of Toronto. The provincial government awarded police sweeping powers under the Public Works Protection Act to stop, search and arrest individuals by declaring a large area of downtown Toronto to be a public works for the summit. The impact on civil liberties was immediate and was devastating. 1105 individuals were arrested within 48 hours in Toronto — the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Of these, only 278 would eventually be charged with a crime (although further post-G20 arrests would raise the number of G20-accused to 301). Countless numbers of protesters, pedestrians and TTC passengers were subjected to arbitrary detentions and forced to submit to police searches. Many individuals spent nights in the Eastern Avenue Detention Centre without access to counsel, in overcrowded conditions and without proper food and water. These violations cannot be forgotten now that the G20 is over. They demand accountability.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has been demanding this accountability before, during, and most importantly, in the aftermath of the Summit. In the interests of transparency to our members and the public, below is a selection of the most important correspondence and submissions we have made to elected officials regarding G8/G20 governance and policing. Where a written reply was received, it has also been included.
August 11, 2010
In this podcast, Tony Navaneelan, Acting Fundamental Freedoms Program Director, speaks about the the key legal issues around the G20. From the use of the antiquated Public Works Protection Act to questions about what a systematic review from OIPRD can accomplish, Navaneelan offers critical legal insight.
Tony Navaneelan on RedEye, Vancouver Coop Radio
Click the link above to download and listen to the podcast. Alternatively, you can listen to the podcast directly in your browser by clicking here.
You can also see Tony Navaneelan’s earlier television interview regarding G20 governance and policing with SunTV by clicking here.