Canada’s Maximum 10-year Prison Term for Wearing a Mask at a Riot

Wearing a mask at a riot is now a crime

A bill that bans the wearing of masks during a riot or unlawful assembly and carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence with a conviction of the offence became law today.

Bill C-309, a private member’s bill introduced by Conservative MP Blake Richards in 2011, passed third reading in the Senate on May 23 and was proclaimed law during a royal assent ceremony in the Senate this afternoon.

Richards, MP for Wild Rose, Alta., said the bill is meant to give police an added tool to prevent lawful protests from becoming violent riots, and that it will help police identify people who engage in vandalism or other illegal acts. The bill is something that police, municipal authorities and businesses hit hard by riots in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and other cities in recent years, were asking for, according to Richards.

Mask ban: Canada’s veiled protesters face 10 years’ jail

A new Canadian law forbids people from wearing a mask or covering their face during a riot or so-called “unlawful assembly” in the country. The law carries a maximum ten-year sentence for anyone convicted of physically concealing their identity.

Current Canadian law already forbids covering the face during a criminal act, although CBC reported that the statue, which criminalizes “disguise with intent,” generally applies to robberies. Police departments across the nation have called on lawmakers to lower the burden of proof for investigators trying to prove a mask was used for the sole purpose of hiding a demonstrator’s identity. Municipal authorities have also sought to stiffen penalties in the wake of recent violent riots in Toronto, Vancouver, Montreal and other cities.

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 You Can Protest, But Don’t Wear a Mask

In a move that comes with an unsettling brand of legislative style, tongue-in-cheek humor, the Canadian government passed a bill on Halloween that aims to outlaw masked protestors during riots or “unlawful assemblies.” In a way, it’s not surprising. Canada has had a tricky few years for riots and protest related carnage. As you may have seen in our documentary, the streets of Montreal were torn up this year by students, anarchists, and anarchist students who were protesting tuition hikes.

When the G20 summit came to Toronto in 2010, cop cars were burned, the Black Bloc smashed up retail windows, uninvolved civilians were held by police blockades in the rain, and many protestors were detained in a make-shift detention center on the east end of the city. People in Vancouver also got super upset when the Canucks blew it in the Stanley Cup finals. However, the move to ban masks entirely appears to be an unrealistic measure that will do more to prevent the freedom of protestors, than limit the amount of violence and anarchy on Canadian streets during trying political times.


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