FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
TORONTO, November 11, 2011 – The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is concerned about various actions being contemplated and taken across the country in relation to the Occupy protests taking place in many Canadian cities. Freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association are core democratic rights that are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Without robust protection for these rights, many other rights become meaningless.
In many Canadian cities Occupy protestors have worked with city officials to ensure that concerns about health, safety and public access to parks and other protest spaces are addressed. Dialogue between protestors, law enforcement and municipalities have proven productive in many instances and this should remain the primary method of addressing any issues that come up. CCLA is concerned that some municipalities appear to have simply decided that protests have gone on long enough and should cease. In some cities, injunction proceedings have been brought on an expedited basis in an attempt to remove protestors from public spaces. City officials have cited a variety of reasons for taking these actions including health and safety issues, as well as aesthetic concerns and preparing spaces for holiday celebrations.
CCLA has been writing to city officials urging them to respect constitutionally protected rights to expression and peaceful assembly. Unilateral enforcement action by police is unacceptable and dangerous. Serious concerns about health and safety should be raised with the protest groups, but unilateral evictions may violate constitutional guarantees. The enforcement of municipal by-laws or trespass notices may be unconstitutional as these actions may unjustifiably violate Charter rights. Where recourse through the courts is being considered or currently underway, protestors must be given ample notice and time to respond.
The Occupy protests have been ongoing for close to a month and there appears to be no reason that these court proceedings have to take place on an expedited basis. Ensuring that all sides are heard will allow courts to reach a fully informed decision and lend legitimacy to that decision in the eyes of the stakeholders.
In addition to reaching out to city officials, CCLA has encouraged individuals involved in the Occupy movement to contact the organization with concerns or for legal assistance. CCLA will continue to monitor developments across the country to ensure that fundamental freedoms are protected.
For more information, please contact:
- Cara Zwibel, Director, Fundamental Freedoms Program – email@example.com or 416-363-0321 ext 255
- Abby Deshman, Director, Public Safety Program – firstname.lastname@example.org or 416-363-0321 ext 223