A new Canadian bill turned law continues the international fight against protesters and the resistance movement by making it a crime punishable by up to 10 years in prison to wear a mask or any form of identity concealment during non-authorized gatherings.
The law indicates that wearing a mask or concealing ones identity during any unlawful assembly, as described by Canadian law to be three or more people gathering to disturb the piece, the individual in question is committing a very serious crime. This new law is a companion to the preexisting “disguise with Intent” law, which was established to target those who go to a protest with intent to loot or riot and at the same time conceal their identity. This new law has a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, while the disguise with intent law only carries 5.
And with growing opposition against government worldwide (and for good reason as detailed by Anthony Gucciardi yesterday in a piece revealing 5 reasons we should distrust the government), this will likely lead to mass arrests. After Member of Parliament (MP) Blake Richards introduced the bill (bill C-30,9) for its first reading in the House of Commons in October of 2011, C-30,9 was effectively enacted as law on June 19, 2013.
When asked for comment, MP Richards said that his new law is to stop ‘lawful protests from becoming violent riots’. Many critics are concerned that it is not only a unnecessary addition to the criminal code due to the preexisting disguise with intent law, but that it will hinder many from utilizing their freedom of expression and the protection of their right to privacy. And although the new legislation passed in the House of Commons and is now enacted as law, it was not a unanimous vote.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), says that they fear that their cries are going unheard in respect to people wearing masks, citing that many wear masks out of fear of reprisal from either co-workers or perhaps even family members. They also brought up the argument that even if one person is wearing a mask and commits a crime, it does not immediately make everyone wearing a mask criminals as well.
MP Richards said that he is proud that his law has created a ‘solution’ to curbing riot-based violence, and that although there are many misunderstandings about this law he is sure that there will ‘always be critics’.
MP Charmaine Borg, however, did not agree. She stated on record in April that the bill was a major threat to anonymity. She said:
“[This bill] takes away an individual’s right to demonstrate anonymously. An individual is not necessarily going to commit a crime just because he or she is wearing a mask at a riot. It is reasonable to think that the person just wants to remain anonymous and protect his or her identity.”
The statements coincides with the CCLA concerns over police using the bill as a tool to break up an assembly for the mere fact that only one or two protesters in the group were wearing masks. The response from Richards and the supporters of C-309 argue that his bill will actually help protesters and protect the right to protest, as it will apparently prevent illegitimate protesters from infiltrating a lawful event and turning it into an unlawful or riotous one.