Protecting your right to protest in the Ontario Court of Appeal

December 11, 2019

“This isn’t a country where the police stop people based on broad state powers that are not grounded in the constitution” – Michael Bryant, Executive Director – Canadian Civil Liberties Association 

CCLA will be in the Ontario Court of Appeal on December 17th, 2019 defending the right to protest and protecting against unconstitutional police interference. Rights and freedoms should only be subject to reasonable limits, justifiable in a free and democratic society. The hearing will be in Courtroom 2 of Osgoode Hall at 10 am. 

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

Mr. Stewart refused to let police inspect his bag and challenged their authority to stop him going into the park. When he tried to go past the police, he was stopped, his bag was searched and his swimming goggles were taken from him. The police later disbanded their perimeter and stopped inspecting people’s bags as they entered the park. Mr. Stewart has since brought an action challenging the police’s use of mass and indiscriminate searches of protesters during the G20 protests. His case is now on appeal to the Ontario Court of Appeal.

CCLA is intervening in this case to argue that the police had no lawful authority to demand these bag searches as a condition of entering Allan Gardens in the first place. In the circumstances, the police had no right to demand to search demonstrators – or anyone else – entering the park.

Peaceful protest is a form of expression protected by the Charter and CCLA believes that any police powers that restrict this freedom must be justified. While we don’t have unfettered rights to use public parks however we like, the state equally doesn’t have the right to restrict entry in a way that violates our Charter rights and freedoms. There must be reasonable limits placed on police powers.

 CCLA is grateful to Winston Gee and Sarah Whitmore of Torys LLP who are representing CCLA before the Court of Appeal.