May 7, 2012
It may soon be a crime to wear a mask in Canada. The Harper government supports a bill proposed by Conservative backbencher Blake Richards that would slam protesters in prison for five years if they wear a mask during a demonstration.
The legislation is supported by the Conservative majority and will likely become law.
Richards said the bill will give the police more power to prevent property damage. “I think it strengthens the right for peaceful protest. It’s only when individuals engage in criminal activity or become violent where this law would apply.”
It will also allow the police to more easily photograph demonstrators and identify and target them.
Richards’ bill follows a tuition hike protest in Montreal that turned violent last month. A student federation said the riot was caused by the police after they “quickly and brutally” intervened in the protest. The police said they were responding to vandals attacking the Montreal Convention Center.
Canadian police have a documented history of inserting agents provocateurs in demonstrations and then using their behavior as an excuse to attack non-violent protesters. In 2007, police “anarchists” were caught staging violence in Montebello during a NAFTA summit.