Wednesday • 2012.04.11
C-309—Preventing Persons from Concealing Their Identity during Riots and Unlawful Assemblies Act
Summary: Bill C-309 seeks to place limits on how we can and cannot express while exercising our freedoms of assembly and association.
Decision: Christin Milloy would vote NAY on C-309. (41st Parliament, 1st Session)
If you show up at some protest in a mask, I might think you’re a hooligan. Then again, I might very well be the masked protester standing next to you, depending on what it is you’re fighting for. But what makes Canada great is that it doesn’t matter whether or not I, or anyone else, agrees with your message—your Charter freedoms of association through assembly and of expression are unassailable, as far as I am concerned.
This bill seeks to add a new, freedom-limiting non-violent offense to the criminal code, punishable by a prison term of up to five years:
Every person who commits an offence (…) while wearing a mask or other disguise to conceal their identity without lawful excuse is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
Clearly, this bill’s misguided intention is to add an extra charge onto true mischief makers (such as riot vandals, robbers of banks, and violent assailants of any description) if they conceal their identities while committing a crime—but, after witnessing the disgraceful abuses of police power during the 2010 G20 conference in Toronto, I find it impossible to accept that police would limit this law’s application to those select situations. The bill is so vague, so broadly written, it is dangerous.
Pathetically, we live in an age when people who film police on public property (not a crime) are often arrested on trumped up charges, and have their property summarily deleted or destroyed. A world where peaceful assemblers and passers-by can be randomly detained, and receive a charge of interfering with police if they try to exercise their right to leave. I see this bill as serving only to further intimidate and silence dissenting protesters who might, understandably, wish to keep their activism anonymous by wearing a mask.
If you happen to be a Muslim woman who wears a veil, you had better forget about your freedom of assembly under bill C-309. That is, unless the Charter freedom of religion would still qualify as a “lawful excuse” under C-309.
What precisely would constitute a “lawful excuse?” I can’t tell you that, because it’s not defined anywhere in the bill. However, it’s a pretty good bet it would cover police agents acting as undercover instigators, as they almost-certainly did during Toronto’s massive G20 protests in 2010… a tactic which Canadian police have been caught red-handed using before in other parts of Canada.
C-309 limits freedoms too dangerously, while yielding no redeeming value whatsoever for Canadian people. No bill such as this would ever receive my vote in Parliament.