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NEWS: Conservatives to outlaw masks at protests

Global News reports, “The Harper government is throwing its weight behind a private members’ bill (C-309) that would give police the power to arrest anyone hiding their identity during (what they view as) a riot or unlawful assembly. …An ‘unlawful assembly’ (is) a legal term in which police deem there to be reasonable grounds to expect a disturbance of the peace.”

“Conservative backbencher (MP) Blake Richards (from Alberta) is proposing penalties of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000 for protesters who wear a mask or disguise.”

“The bill would create two classes of offence. Those who incite a riot wearing a mask ‘without lawful excuse’ face an indictable offence with prison terms of up to five years. Those ‘who participate in an unlawful assembly while wearing a mask or disguise to conceal identity’ (could face the indictable offence) or a summary offence (with) up to six months in jail and fines up to $5,000.”

“Civil libertarians are concerned that legislation will give police the power to break up peaceful protests, which are frequently filled with people in costumes, masks or even face paint that could be construed as concealing identity under the new law.”

“Francoise Boivin, the NDP justice critic, said the official Opposition does not have a problem with the ‘concept’ of the bill, but she says police already have the power to arrest and charge people intent on inciting a riot, and of using a mask to commit a crime. Boivin argued that the additional law may simply muddy the water and give defence lawyers an opportunity to point out inconsistencies between the various statutes.”

“Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced Sunday that the Conservative majority formally supports the legislation, meaning it is all but assured of becoming law.”