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Canada bans masks at riots in new law

By KATE STANTON, UPI.com
UPI /Monika Graff.
UPI /Monika Graff. | License Photo

Canadians have a worldwide reputation for being easy-going and apologetic, but the northern nation has just imposed unusually stringent laws against rioting.

A Conservative Canadian MP successfully passed a bill Wednesday making it illegal for protesters to conceal their identity during a riot or "unlawful assembly," which according to RT.com, is described as a group of at least three people who “needlessly and without reasonable cause provoke other persons to disturb the peace tumultuously.”

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The law carried a maximum 10-year sentence, the CBC reported.

"The provisions of my bill are effective immediately, which means police officers across Canada now have access to these tools to protect the public from masked rioters," Richards said in a statement.

"We can all rest easier tonight knowing our communities have been made safer with its passage," he added.

According to Foreign Policy, Canada is now one of several countries -- like Saudi Arabia and Bahrain -- that has chosen to enact policies regarding the wearing of masks. But what constitutes a mask?

"Does that include dust masks to prevent getting sick at crowded, dirty protests?" FP's J. Dana Stuster wondered.

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Balaclavas so protesters don't freeze on cold Canadian nights? Handkerchiefs to stave off the inhalation of tear gas? Do fake beards, like the one worn by the Canadian student above, count as masks?

Civil liberties advocates who opposed the law also argued that there is often a legitimate need to wear something that covers your face.

"Any law that infringes upon civil liberties needs to be held to a test of absolute necessity, and I don't think that test has been met in this instance," said Michael Byers, a board member of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, told the CBC.

“I think it is a more symbolic bill than it is a response,” Natalie Des Rogers, general counsel with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said. “In our view, it shouldn’t come into law, there is no demonstrable need for this.”

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