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. Finally, municipal by-laws often limit how, when, and where, protests can be held.
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.
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 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.
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