Yet, these rights come with limits and responsibilities and sometimes protestors also end up on the wrong side of the law. By and large, public protests in Canada have been peaceful; however, the G20 protests in 2010 or the “Occupy” demonstrations in 2013 often turned ugly resulting in gross violations of civil rights and mass arrests.
That’s why it is important to be aware of the law and your rights if you decide to join protests. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides constitutional protection for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. And still, you need to be fully aware of how to peacefully protest at public gatherings, and maintain a non-violent approach especially if there’s a fair chance of police intervention.
Police presence at rallies is primarily meant to deter anti-social elements, ensure things don’t get out of hand and everything stays peaceful. If you intended to join a rally, make sure you keep friends and family informed, so they can take legal course if you are arrested.
If arrested, stay calm and co-operate with the police peacefully. You have every right to ask what you are being charged with. You are also entitled to speak to legal counsel and the police must make efforts to contact your lawyer of choice. Once you have been arrested you do not have to answer any questions about the incident without your lawyer present. Any answers or information that you give can be used against you. Additionally, if you lie to the police and you are caught, additional charges of obstructing justice may be added to the list of charges. At rallies, you can walk away from a police officer anytime, unless they have detained or arrested you. To be safe, always document your interactions with the police and take note of the officer’s name and badge number. This can be useful for your legal counsel at a later stage.
If you are considering joining a protest, or wish to file a claim about a protest-related incident, we have the right team to handle your legal needs.