Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Northern Exposure

Trey Smith

Canada’s House of Commons has approved a proposed law that would make it a crime subject to a lengthy prison term to wear a mask or to otherwise disguise one’s identity while participating in “a riot or an unlawful assembly”.

Under C-309, anyone caught wearing a mask in an “unlawful assembly” would be liable to five years in prison and those deemed to have done so during a riot could be jailed for up to 10 years.

The private member’s bill was introduced by Blake Richards, a Conservative Member of Parliament and former police chief, and adopted with the full support of the ruling Conservative government. It is rare for private members’ bills to become law. But given the support the draconian “anti-mask” bill has received from Prime Minster Stephen Harper and his Conservatives and the Conservative control of the Senate, the upper house of Canada’s parliament, Bill C-309 is all but certain to become law.

As C-309 itself acknowledges, it is already illegal to conceal one’s identity while committing an indictable offence. The real intent of the proposed law change is to facilitate preventive arrests and threaten protesters with severe criminal penalties. Police forces would be able to arrest and seek to incarcerate for years persons who had committed no crime other than to wear a mask at a gathering proclaimed by the police to be an unlawful assembly or riot.
~ from Canadian Government Proposing Draconian Criminal Sanctions for Masked Protesters by Ed Patrick ~
Over the years, I've participated in quite a few protests. Some were deemed legal -- we let the authorities know what we were up to -- and some were not. While I have never personally worn a mask or face covering, there is one pragmatic reason to do so: tear gas and/or pepper spray. During even the most orderly and peaceful protests imaginable, you never know when the order will come for the police to attack the assemblage with some sort of noxious substance.

But I guess in Canada -- much like in the US -- protester safety doesn't matter that much. I wonder what they would think if protesters brought shields for personal protection!

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