Your Right to Gather and Protest

While the Charter protects many of the rights that are crucial to effective protest, laws limit this right in very real ways.

  • Protesters have been arrested for breaching the peace and unlawful assembly.
  • Provincial legislation may restrict blockades on public roadways and assemblies on certain pieces of public property.
  • Municipal by-laws often limit how, when, and where, protests can be held.
People in a democratic society have the right to protest.

If we allow too many restrictions on the fundamental right to protest, we silence the voices of many in our society, particularly those who may have limited other means for making their views known.

It’s worth remembering that protests are intended to cause disruption and this is protected activity in a democracy. Strong protections for the right to protest are essential to meaningful and informed political debate and discussion.

A democratic society welcomes debate and disagreement on the key issues of the day, and protest is a big part of this process.

Protests can be messy and disruptive, but they are also crucial to our well-being as a society.  

We only have the right to vote every few years, but protests provide opportunities to express our views and grievances at any time.

Protesting? Know your Rights

CCLA has published a Know Your Rights Guide to help you understand your rights, and be better prepared.

DOWNLOAD THE GUIDE

Our 2019 Supreme Court Win

Police should not be able to see a peaceful protester, throw them to the ground, hurt them, and then arrest them, even if it is to prevent violence by others. We saw police abuse this authority in Toronto during the 2010 G20 by arresting over a thousand peaceful protesters.

At a protest, Randy Fleming was thrown to the ground and forcefully detained by multiple police officers, even though he had done nothing wrong. Multiple officers physically brought him down and one even used his body weight to restrain him by putting his knee on Randy’s face. The police said they did this in order to prevent violence by others. In our quest for justice, we joined Randy Fleming all the way up to the Supreme Court in the first ruling in Canadian history to address police powers in such circumstances.

In October of 2019. Randy finally got justice.

It was the first Supreme Court ruling in Canadian history to address police powers in such circumstances, and CCLA was in court fighting for the freedom to protest peacefully without being hurt, thrown to the ground, and arrested.

The right to protest is crucial to a free democracy and important to creating a more equitable society.
Our Recent Cases and Reports

View our latest work and activity.

Protest Rights & the G20

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.
VIEW CASE

Protest Rights & the G20

The Ontario legislature passed a law that forces gas station owners to put up stickers with the government party line on pollution pricing or the carbon tax. The government should not force anyone to share their message. If the station owners choose to not put up the stickers, they can be handed a new fine every day. That’s called “compelled political speech.” That’s unconstitutional.

Our Work Protecting Protest Rights

Filter

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

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

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

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

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

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

CCLA Seeks to Appeal Nova Scotia Anti-Protest Injunction

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

Nova Scotia Attempting to Avoid Public Scrutiny

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

CCLA to Challenge Nova Scotia’s Protest Injunction

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

CCLA Taking Steps to Fight Nova Scotia’s Protest Injunction

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A G20 Victory Ten Years In The Making

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

Physical Distancing Shouldn’t Preclude Public Dissent

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

Young Voices, Youth Activism, and Social Change

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

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

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

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

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

March For Our Education

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

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

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

Thousands Protest Against G7 Summit by National Assembly in Quebec City

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

CCLA Follows Up On YorkU Strike

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

CCLA Talks Right to Protest at University of Chicago Law School

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

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

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