The law passed with little fanfare and relatively mild opposition, but the draconian ban on Anonymous “Guy Fawkes” masks at protests was quietly implemented.
Many believed the politicians and law enforcement officials who assured everyone that the new legislation would not be used to target law abiding citizens, protesters or the like. But all of those political assurances have now been proven to be false as the language and intentions of the legislation are now becoming increasingly clear.
The Canadian law specifically bans people from wearing any sort of mask or face covering during an “unlawful assembly”.
The legislators who drafted the law assured everyone that this wouldn’t apply to protests and protestors, since – after all – protest is legal. But it’s not that simple.
The maximum ten-year sentence threatened against anyone convicted of concealment of one’s face, is now being targeted towards protesters. Since the law has passed, a lot more details have come out about it. One of those details is the fact that any assembly which police decide is being conducted “unlawfully” – even if one is at the protest and personally obeying the law themselves – can now result in those attending facing 10 years behind bars if their faces are covered.
This does not only apply to the well-known Anonymous Guy Fawkes mask, but even someone wrapping their face in a scarf or “neck sock,” or even religious face coverings.
Canadian law already banned covering one’s face during a criminal act. But this newer law, passed quietly two years ago this month, seems to have been drafted specifically to target Anonymous activists and others who typically wear masks at protests. Now, reports are coming in that activists have been charged with wearing masks at protests.
The bill allows police to define any protest as an unlawful assembly if it involves three or more people who “disturb the peace tumultuously” or even “needlessly and without reasonable cause provoke other persons to disturb the peace tumultuously.”
That means that if police think you chanted something that could have “provoked” someone else to “disturb the peace,” then you could literally be locked up for a decade. So far the people charged with this infraction have not faced such lengthy sentences, but the potential is there.
Natalie Des Rogers, general counsel with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association said “I think it is a more symbolic bill than it is a response. In our view, it shouldn’t come into law, there is no demonstrable need for this.
“You cannot have a limit that is not prescribed by law, that is not clear to the citizens,” she added. “We have the right to know what is expected of us. When there is vague language in the context where it infringes a freedom prescribed by the Charter, it becomes an unreasonable limit.”
(Article by Reagan Ali; edited by M. David; image via AFP Photo and Stan Honda)