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Policing During a Public Demonstration

 

When large groups of people gather, the Edmonton Police Service’s priority is the safety of all participants, the general public, and the preservation of property. Police responsibilities have their basis in common law and statutes and include:

 

  • Maintain public order and preserve the peace
  • Remain objective at all times
  • Act to resolve community conflict peacefully and in accordance with the rule of law
  • Ensure the safety and security of everyone
  • Minimize disruption for residents, businesses and visitors
  • Identify, assess, and deal with threats and risks as they arise
  • Enforce laws and investigate offences while respecting individual rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

 

Traffic delays

Protest activities may interrupt the normal flow of traffic. The EPS will act to minimize the impact on the public order, and to ensure public safety.

 

The EPS’ objective in policing any road closures/blockades is to restore the orderly flow of traffic in the safest manner possible. 

 

Enforcement/threats/violence/illegal activity

The EPS will maintain public peace and investigate criminal acts in accordance with its duties to do so in the public interest.

 

The use of police discretion is in accordance with the public interest is an important tool in de-escalating conflict and managing limited police resources. The proper exercise of police discretion should not be confused with a failure to enforce the law.  For example, a police officer may strategically delay arresting an offender to avoid creating risks for themselves and the public.

 

The EPS will respond to unlawful activities or actions in an appropriate and professional manner.

 

The EPS respects the rights of people to exercise their freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

 

What are my rights in a protest, march or demonstration situation?

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees certain rights and fundamental freedoms:

 

  • Freedom of conscience and religion
  • Freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication
  • Freedom of peaceful assembly
  • Freedom of peaceful association.

 

These rights are not without limits

Exercising your Charter rights does not come without responsibility for your actions.  For example, a protestor does not have the right to hurt another person, or damage or destroy property as part of their protest.

 

The following is a non-exhaustive list of some Criminal Code sections that may limit certain activities:

 

  • Blocking or obstructing a highway (Section 423(1)(g))
  • Causing a disturbance (Section 175)
  • Common nuisance (Section 180)
  • Interfering with transportation facilities (Section 248)
  • Breach of the peace (Section 31)
  • Offensive volatile substance (Section 178)
  • Taking part in a riot (Sections 65, 68)
  • Unlawful assembly (Section 63)
  • Mischief (Section 430)
  • Criminal harassment (Section 264)
  • Public incitement of hatred (Section 319)
  • Obstruction or interference with access to health services (Section 423.2)

An arrest for breach of the peace under the Criminal Code does not result in a charge.

 

There are numerous other Criminal Code sections that may apply to unlawful protests. In addition to the Criminal Code, provincial statutes and municipal bylaws can regulate public order and conduct at a protest or other assembly of persons.

 

Just because someone is not issued a charge at the time does not mean charges cannot be laid later. Officers will continue to investigate.