Convoy of truckers: what options do the police have in the face of “unlawful” and “unlawful” driving? – National
Listen carefully, and under the blaring horns of downtown Ottawa’s so-called “freedom convoy,” you hear it — language changing as the protest becomes “illegal.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was one of the first officials to march, telling Canadians watching Question Period on Wednesday afternoon that the protest was “becoming illegal.”
Diane Deans, currently a candidate for mayor of Ottawa and chair of the city’s police services board, described those who continue to block and roam the streets as “mercenaries who illegally protest and occupy our communities.” .
Chief Peter Sloly of the Ottawa Police Service also referred to “illegal” activities by some. City councilors repeatedly described the protest as an “occupation” and “siege” of the city.
What does “unlawful assembly” mean?
Protesting in Canada is a constitutional right. But there is a caveat: the protest in question must be a “peaceful assembly” to be legal.
This legal protection, according to the Justice Department’s website, “does not protect riots and gatherings that seriously disturb the peace.”
The Criminal Code specifically defines a mob as follows:
An unlawful assembly is an assembly of three or more persons who, with the intention of achieving a common object, assemble in such a manner or so as to conduct themselves when assembled in such a way as to cause fear to those in the vicinity of the crowd, on reasonable grounds, that they
- (a) will tumultuously disturb the peace; Where
- (b) by such assembly, unnecessarily and without reasonable cause, will incite others to tumultuously disturb the public order.
Gatherings that were initially legal may become illegal if they meet these conditions.
An unlawful assembly can officially become a riot when the gathered individuals have “begun to disturb the public order tumultuously”.
Indeed, an unlawful assembly is when people gather with the intention of disturbing the peace – a riot is when they follow through and do so.
Anyone who takes part in a riot can face up to two years in prison.
A “judge, mayor or sheriff, or the lawful deputy of a mayor or sheriff” has the power to declare a riot.
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Paul Champ, an Ottawa lawyer who specializes in Charter rights and constitutional law, said the power to declare a riot is rarely exercised under Canadian law and he is skeptical about the way forward. the city. He said another option some are discussing is getting a court injunction to move the convoy.
Even with that, Champ noted there was no power to compel police to enforce an injunction.
“They don’t have to follow it,” he said, adding that police have the power to assess whether enforcement might be too risky.
He, however, questioned Sloly’s assertion that the police would not be able to stop anyone from entering the city at the weekend, when crowds were expected to increase again.
“They can totally do that,” he said. “It is the power of the common law to prevent disturbing the peace.”
Errol Mendes, a professor of constitutional law at the University of Ottawa, said past police activity during large-scale protests shows further action is at hand.
For example, the police erected physical barriers and secure areas during the G7 Summit in Quebec City and the G20/G8 Summit in Toronto.
Mendes said he doesn’t want to question decisions made by police based on the information they’re working with. But he said he hopes officials look at the range of options available.
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“What I urge people to do is see what’s happened in other cities,” he said. “The answers are there.”
What other options might there be for the police?
However, the biggest question plaguing officials over the past week has been: what more can be done?
Sloly initially said that enforcing the law could carry risks for his officers.
He has since said police are moving towards a strategy of “escalation and containment” and that “unlawful” behavior will be investigated and prosecuted.
Sloly said Thursday that other options, like additional support from politicians, or even the Canadian Forces, might be needed. The RCMP has also stepped up assistance at the request of the city over the past 24 hours, he added.
Additional support could take various forms.
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The cost of policing protests is currently estimated by Ottawa police at $800,000 a day.
A federal program called the National Capital Policing Extraordinary Costs Program sets aside approximately $3 million each year over five years for National Capital Region police officers facing extraordinary circumstances.
A government source told Global News that officials are open to increasing the amount of money made available to the city once the full cost of handling the protest is clear.
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Ottawa City Councilor Catherine McKenney, who represents the downtown neighborhood of Somerset, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Trudeau and RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki on Thursday, urging them to have the RCMP take over. of the Ottawa Police Force.
“Residents of downtown Ottawa have been left behind. Now we are told that more trucks are expected to arrive this weekend to bolster the convoy’s strength,” McKenney wrote in his letter.
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A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said discussions were ongoing about whether local police would require additional RCMP intervention.
Additional officers were dispatched to the city Thursday evening, and the RCMP said officers from its Ontario and Quebec divisions were also deployed.
“The exact number will fluctuate based on identified needs and any operational development,” a force spokesman said.
The RCMP does not provide frontline policing in Ontario, as it does in a number of other provinces.
Instead, the force’s role in the province focuses on federal issues: organized crime, counterterrorism, protective services, and homeland security issues, usually through the team emergency response.
The Emergency Response Team is a specialized tactical force called in for “high risk” operations, including “the resolution of incidents involving armed and barricaded people”.
Some of those members are already deployed, Global News confirmed.
Will the army get involved?
Defense Minister Anita Anand was candid: “The Canadian Forces are not a police force.
“As such, it is not anticipated that the Canadian Armed Forces will be involved in the current situation in Ottawa in a law enforcement capacity,” she said in a tweet.
Calling in the military would be a rare and extraordinary decision.
A military legal official told Global News that this would usually happen via the National Defense Act: specifically, two sections of the law, one of which was used during the Oka Crisis in 1990.
This military deployment came at the request of the then Premier of Quebec under Part VI of the National Defense Act, which states that the military can be called in to support the police as ‘aid to the civil power’.
Under this section, the Attorney General of any province may call upon the Canadian Forces “to serve in the assistance of the civil power in all cases where a riot or disturbance of the peace, beyond the powers of the civil authorities to suppress, prevent or treat and require this service” occurs or is likely to occur.
There is also Section 273.6, which outlines the powers of the executive branch of government to deploy the military. Under this article, the federal cabinet or the Minister of Defense alone can “authorize the Canadian Forces to carry out any task of public service”.
In this case, the cabinet or the minister can “issue instructions authorizing the Canadian Forces to provide assistance in relation to any matter relating to law enforcement” in the following two circumstances: “the assistance is in the national interest” and “the matter cannot be effectively dealt with except with the assistance of the Canadian Forces.
However, both Trudeau and Anand said the deployment of the military was not “in the cards” at this time.
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