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The G20 (or Group of 20) Summit is an international forum for world leaders to gather and discuss issues including policy and global financial stability which are pressing in the world today.
Between June 25th and 27th, 2010, downtown Toronto hosted the G20 summit – the largest political meeting in Canada’s history.

Thousands of international dignitaries gathered in the heart of the city to discuss key questions of international importance. Their presence attracted hundreds of journalists and reporters, as well as large numbers of individuals wanting to express their points of view regarding government policy.

Why this is an Issue

The protests that occur in response to the G20 Summit circle around the concern that the topics of discussion between the nations remain largely focused on the “capitalist” agenda and does not take immediate issues of the public into consideration. Issues surrounding social stability, environmental concerns and the needs of those who are impoverished are often put on the back burner.

In spite of a massive security budget (nearly 1 billion dollars), policing during the G20 summit took a turn as more than 1,000 people were arrested in what turned out to be the biggest mass arrest in Canadian history.

It is our opinion that Canadians deserve to know why the security failed to fulfill its role to protect the right to protest, which brings together a number of basic civil liberties including freedom of expression, freedom of association and freedom of peaceful assembly.

The voices of the most vulnerable and marginalized groups seeking to bring attention to the issues which impact them the most were silenced and taken away.

At CCLA, we believe that the right to protest is essential to our democracy as Canadians. Protests can be disruptive, but are also crucial to our well-being as a society.

Our Recent Work to Protect Protest Rights.

2020 Court of Appeal Win.

In 2010, Luke Stewart came to Toronto during the G20 summit to participate in protests. He went to Allan Gardens to take place in a rally and march. Police had formed a perimeter around the Gardens and required people to submit to a bag inspection in order to enter.

Luke refused to let police inspect his bag and challenged their authority to stop him going into the Gardens. When he tried to go past the police, he was stopped, his bag was searched and his swimming goggles were taken off him.  The police ultimately disbanded their perimeter and stopped inspecting people’s bags as they entered the Gardens. We intervened in this case to argue that the police had no lawful authority to demand these bag searches as a condition of entering the Gardens in the first place. In this situation, the police had no authority to demand to search demonstrators entering the park.

Mr. Stewart brought an action challenging the Police’s use of mass and indiscriminate searches of protesters during the G20 protests. His case was appealed to the Ontario Court of Appeal from the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, and in 2020 (ten years later) the Court sided with Luke and CCLA: police cannot search you without committing a crime.

We believe that peaceful protest is a form of expression protected by the Charter.

Police powers that restrict freedom and rights must be justifiable. While we don’t have unrestricted rights to use public parks however we like, the state equally doesn’t have the right to restrict entry in a way that violates Charter rights and freedoms. There must be reasonable limits placed on police powers.

““This isn’t a country where the police stop people based on broad state powers that are not grounded in the constitution””

Michael BryantExecutive Director of CCLA
Rights And Freedoms Should Only Be Subject To Reasonable Limits, Justifiable In a Free and Democratic Society.
The Timeline

2020

April 16, 2020

Victory! Court Decides Favourably

Court decides favourably that police had no right to stop and search Luke.

2019

December 17, 2019

CCLA Appears as Intervenor

CCLA appears as an intervenor at the Ontario Court of Appeal.

Materials & Documents

Decisions

Latest Updates and Briefs

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Free Speech and Protest Rights: CCLA to Universities and Police Services: You Must Walk the Talk

On June 7, 2024, Anaïs Bussières McNicoll, director of the Fundamental Freedoms program and interim…
June 7, 2024

Free Speech and Protest Rights: CCLA Granted Leave to Intervene in the McGill University Injunction Proceeding

On June 4, 2024, Anaïs Bussières McNicoll, Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program and Interim…
June 4, 2024

Free Speech and Protest Rights: CCLA Granted Leave to Intervene in the University of Toronto Injunction Proceeding

On June 4, 2024, Anaïs Bussières McNicoll, Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program and Interim…
June 4, 2024

Free Speech and Protest Rights: CCLA Seeks Leave to Intervene in McGill University’s Injunction Proceedings against the Encampment on its Campus

On May 27, 2024, Anaïs Bussières McNicoll, Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program and Interim…
May 28, 2024

CCLA Calls for Investigation into Edmonton Police

TORONTO — Anaïs Bussières McNicoll, Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program of the Canadian Civil…
May 14, 2024

Student Protest Movement: CCLA Calls for an Investigation into Calgary Police’s Recent Conduct

TORONTO — Anaïs Bussières McNicoll, Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program of the Canadian Civil…
May 11, 2024

Know Your Rights: Universities Should Continue to Acknowledge the Rights of Students to Express Themselves and to Protest Peacefully

Now more than ever, it is important for individuals to understand their rights when they…
May 8, 2024

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Freedom of Expression: CCLA Welcomes the Quebec Superior Court Decision Refusing to Order the Dismantlement of the McGill University Encampment

MONTREAL — Following the Quebec Superior Court’s dismissal of an injunction application seeking the dismantlement of…
May 2, 2024

Freedom of Expression, the Right to Protest, and Academic Freedom in a Time of Crisis

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) recognizes that in times of crisis, it is all…
November 11, 2023

CCLA Intervening in Tik Tok Injunction Appeal to Protect Space for Digital Activism

TikTok teens and duet fiends, take note. The CCLA is intervening in an Ontario court…
January 11, 2023

CCLA Moving Forward with Appeal of Nova Scotia Anti-Protest Injunction

The CCLA continues to work to ensure that governments do not overreach in exercising their…
April 8, 2022

CCLA Presents to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy on Bill 100 (Ontario)

Oral Submission to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario…
April 7, 2022

Fear, Loathing and the Law: Pushing the Limits of Legislating “Good” Behaviour

CCLA Essay by Cara Zwibel, Director of Fundamental Freedoms and Brenda McPhail, Director of Privacy…
September 20, 2021

CCLA Seeks to Appeal Nova Scotia Anti-Protest Injunction

While the injunction is no longer in force in the province, we remain concerned about…
July 19, 2021

Nova Scotia Attempting to Avoid Public Scrutiny

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is concerned the Government of Nova Scotia is attempting…
June 24, 2021

CCLA to Challenge Nova Scotia’s Protest Injunction

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
May 28, 2021

CCLA Taking Steps to Fight Nova Scotia’s Protest Injunction

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is taking steps to fight an injunction obtained by…
May 18, 2021

Submissions Before Ontario Standing Committee on The Legislative Assembly re: Bill 254

When the Attorney General introduced these changes in the Assembly he framed them as putting…
March 30, 2021

Manitoba Law Society “Good Character” Process Undermines Truth and Reconciliation, Diversity and Equality

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association sent a brief to the Manitoba Law Society asking it…
March 17, 2021

CCLA to NB Speaker: Don’t Interfere with Protests on Legislative Grounds

Following concerning reports about the treatment of protesters during a demonstration at Parliament Square in…
March 2, 2021

Justice Vs. the G20: The Legacy that Shapes Protests Today

Protests at the G20 and G8 Summits in Toronto went onto become the largest in…
November 7, 2020

CCLA Statement of Support for Abortion Rights & LGBTQ+ Healthcare Now Protest

The role of the government is to protect the health of its citizens. It is…
August 27, 2020

A G20 Victory Ten Years In The Making

The Ontario Court of Appeal has handed down an important decision in a case that…
April 17, 2020

Physical Distancing Shouldn’t Preclude Public Dissent

Remember protest and dissent? It is hard to believe that just six weeks ago the…
April 3, 2020

Young Voices, Youth Activism, and Social Change

In these days of heavy-handed rhetoric from our leaders and political infighting, it is easy…
April 11, 2019
Activists Protesting Peacefully in the street

Student Walkouts: You’ve Got The Power, We’ve Got Your Back.

We are writing about the student walkout planned for Thursday, April 4, 2019, at public…
April 3, 2019

CCLA at The Supreme Court: When Can The Police Arrest You to ‘Protect’ You?

How far can police officers go when initiating a “protective” arrest? Can innocent protestors be…
March 21, 2019

March For Our Education

On Saturday July 21st, hundreds of people gathered at the March For Our Education event at Queen’s…
July 23, 2018

INCLO Report Release: Defending Dissent: State Practices that Protect and Promote the Right to Protest

INCLO and the IHRC launched a report today that provides practical guidance on how law enforcement…
June 27, 2018

Thousands Protest Against G7 Summit by National Assembly in Quebec City

Last weekend, protesters assembled in Quebec City to express their opinions on the G7 Summit…
June 13, 2018

CCLA Follows Up On YorkU Strike

The following letter was sent to Ms. Lucy Fromowitz on May 30, 2018.
June 1, 2018

CCLA Talks Right to Protest at University of Chicago Law School

Last week, CCLA’s Director of Public Safety, Rob De Luca, participated in consultation sessions with…
April 2, 2018

Yorku Protesters: You Have The Power. We Have Your Back (Survey)

I am writing to you about disturbing reports regarding the reported activities of security personnel…
March 27, 2018
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