I’m going to a protest. What do I need to know?
Question & AnswerI’m going to a protest. What do I need to know?
The Emergency Act was in effect from February 15 – 23, 2022. While the Act was in effect, you were not allowed take part in protests that might have disturbed the peace. If you did, the government had the power to take or freeze property related to those protests. And the police had the right to arrest or fine you. Those rules no longer apply. But any charge or fine you got for breaking the Act's rules when it was in effect don't go away because the Act has been revoked. If you think the police have violated your rights, you should get legal advice.
You have the right to protest. That right is protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, also called the Charter.
The Charter protects many basic rights and freedoms for Canadians, including the freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. This means you have the right to gather together with others in public to ask for the changes you want, and to try to persuade others to join you.
In most cases, you have the right to protest peacefully on public property, which includes parks, town squares, and government buildings. You don't need a permit to hold a peaceful protest.
Some common protest activities that the Charter protects include the right to:
- give out leaflets
- carry signs or banners
Limits on protests
But there may be local laws and regulations that say where, when, and how you can protest. Their purpose is to keep people safe and to make sure other people aren't disturbed in a harmful or unfair way. For example, protesters aren't allowed to block highways or put other people's lives at risk. There may also be rules related to the level of noise.
What the police can do
During a protest, the police may be allowed to , search, use force, or you. They can do this if, for example, you commit a crime while you're protesting.
The police may also have a duty to stop protesters from continuing non-peaceful activity. For example, if people are being hurt or if property is being damaged.
It's important to know what your rights are in case you get in trouble with the police during a protest. Steps 4 and 5 have more information on this.