Will the proposed law banning masks during a riot withstand a charter challenge?
Fascist, police state, Nazi.
These were just a few of the choice words that followed my column last week on the federal government’s backing of private member’s Bill C-309, which would make it an offence to wear a mask while taking part in a riot.
Such hyperbole typically comes when one has an opinion that is at odds with the other side’s distorted view of reality.
Let me explain it a different way. First, it is not a right to disguise oneself from authorities. Nowhere in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms does it say that it is a right. So, can we move past that red herring at the outset?
Will the proposed law withstand a charter challenge? Who knows? That is what those ermine-clad wonders inhabiting the bench of the Supreme Court of Canada decide. It isn’t up to politicians, nor anarchists or the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, to decide.
It is the government’s job to create legislation and the court’s job to interpret it, whether the court supports the intent of the government or not.
That’s one of the checks and balances in our system.
Having said that, there are reasons to question the government’s motivations in supporting the piece of proposed legislation aimed at making the wearing of a mask or disguise at a protest gone amok a crime. Aren’t there always reasons to question any government’s motivations? But, that doesn’t mean the government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper is wrong.
For example, the rest of Canada does not enjoy the idyllic climate we do on the West Coast. Toques and balaclavas are de rigeur during the winter months in most of the country when winter delivers its worst. What then does a young idealist wear when mouthing platitudes on Parliament Hill on a cold day?
The answer is that the law is not intended as an absolute. That is why a police officer has discretion in the execution of his or her duty and that discretion is used every day by police officers across the country. The proposed law is intended as a tool for police if they perceive that a group of agitators are about to take a peaceful protest south. Like all police actions, officers are then subject to judgment and scrutiny internally and externally.
If any police officer anywhere makes an arrest for anything, that officer has to justify the arrest as lawful or face the consequences which could be as severe as facing a criminal charge of unlawful confinement. It stands in stark contrast to what you would face if you made a mistake at your job or what an anarchist would face if they actually had a job.
Police state? Fascism? Hardly. It is a tool for the police and, in my view, a worthwhile one.
- post by Leo Knight