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.
By Cara Zwibel
on January 20, 2012
The UN’s Special Rapporteur on freedom of peaceful assembly and association has invited countries, national human rights institutions and NGOs to complete a questionnaire on best practices in the protection of freedom of peaceful assembly and association. The CCLA has submitted a response to the questionnaire that aims to address the positive protections that exist in Canada and also highlight concerns around instances where these freedoms are not adequately protected. Concerns around the Toronto G20 and the use of municipal by-laws to evict Occupy protestors from public spaces are noted in the CCLA’s response.
Read the CCLA’s response to the Special Rapporteur’s questionnaire here.
on November 15, 2011
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has been writing to mayors in cities across Canada to express its concerns about the management of the Occupy protests.
>> Read CCLA’s press release on Occupy
>> Read our blog laying out our concerns with regards to threats of evictions
on November 11, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CCLA Concerned about Threats to Occupy Movements
TORONTO, November 11, 2011 - The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is concerned about various actions being contemplated and taken across the country in relation to the Occupy protests taking place in many Canadian cities. Freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association are core democratic rights that are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Without robust protection for these rights, many other rights become meaningless.
In many Canadian cities Occupy protestors have worked with city officials to ensure that concerns about health, safety and public access to parks and other protest spaces are addressed. Dialogue between protestors, law enforcement and municipalities have proven productive in many instances and this should remain the primary method of addressing any issues that come up. CCLA is concerned that some municipalities appear to have simply decided that protests have gone on long enough and should cease. In some cities, injunction proceedings have been brought on an expedited basis in an attempt to remove protestors from public spaces. City officials have cited a variety of reasons for taking these actions including health and safety issues, as well as aesthetic concerns and preparing spaces for holiday celebrations.
CCLA has been writing to city officials urging them to respect constitutionally protected rights to expression and peaceful assembly. Unilateral enforcement action by police is unacceptable and dangerous. Serious concerns about health and safety should be raised with the protest groups, but unilateral evictions may violate constitutional guarantees. The enforcement of municipal by-laws or trespass notices may be unconstitutional as these actions may unjustifiably violate Charter rights. Where recourse through the courts is being considered or currently underway, protestors must be given ample notice and time to respond.
The Occupy protests have been ongoing for close to a month and there appears to be no reason that these court proceedings have to take place on an expedited basis. Ensuring that all sides are heard will allow courts to reach a fully informed decision and lend legitimacy to that decision in the eyes of the stakeholders.
In addition to reaching out to city officials, CCLA has encouraged individuals involved in the Occupy movement to contact the organization with concerns or for legal assistance. CCLA will continue to monitor developments across the country to ensure that fundamental freedoms are protected.
For more information, please contact:
- Cara Zwibel, Director, Fundamental Freedoms Program – firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-363-0321 ext 255
- Abby Deshman, Director, Public Safety Program – email@example.com or 416-363-0321 ext 223
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 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
on June 23, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(416) 363-0321 ex. 225
CCLA Deeply Concerned by Proposed Back-to-Work Legislation
TORONTO, June 23, 2011 – The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is deeply concerned about the government’s actions in moving forward with back-to-work legislation in relation to the ongoing dispute between Canada Post and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers. The legislation, introduced on Monday, June 20, constitutes a substantial interference in the collective bargaining process and risks sending a message to management that negotiation with unions is unnecessary.
CCLA wrote to Minister of Labour Lisa Raitt on June 16, 2011, when news of the plan to legislate an end to the dispute surfaced. The CCLA’s letter states in part: “…the proposed back-to-work legislation will significantly impede the associational rights of workers under the Charter, and interfere with their ability to engage in effective collective bargaining. Government intervention in disputes between management and labour should be both rare and limited.” Unfortunately, the proposed bill takes an unusually interventionist approach. While back-to-work legislation often sets out a process for the parties to come to an agreement, the legislation in this case goes much further and imposes specific wage increases for the duration of the new collective agreement. The increases in this case are lower than what Canada Post last offered, demonstrating a high level of government interference. In addition, the legislation requires an arbitrator (picked by the Minister of Labour) to select between the offers put forward by Canada Post and the Union, rather than trying to find a compromise between the two.
“This establishes a system where there will be a winner and a loser, rather than encouraging attempts to find common ground. We continue to urge the government to reconsider its approach and allow the parties to the dispute an opportunity to reach a resolution,” CCLA’s Cara Zwibel said.
A complete copy of the CCLA’s letter to the Minister of Labour is available here.
By Cara Zwibel
on June 16, 2011
The CCLA has written to the Minister of Labour urging her to reconsider the proposal to introduce legislation that would force striking workers at Air Canada and Canada Post back to work. Freedom of association is a fundamental freedom under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and it includes the right to effective collective bargaining. The CCLA is concerned that this kind of intervention by government in labour disputes, particularly at such an early stage, will discourage individuals from exercising their associational rights. It also risks sending a message to employers that they need not engage in meaningful negotiations with workers, because the government will simply intervene and force employees back to work.
Read the CCLA’s letter to the Minister of Labour here.
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.