Montreal City Steps Up Repression

Basics Free Community Newsletter
28 January 2009

Wearing a face covering is legal. Attending a public demonstration is also legal. However, if Montreal city council gets it’s way doing these two perfectly legal things at the same time would have you under arrest. A new bylaw currently being debated would specifically ban the wearing of face coverings while attending a public demonstration, even if no laws are being broken by any protesters.

The bylaw is designed to target the city’s left wing forces. In an interview with CBC Radio Paul Chapelo, head of communications for Montreal Police, specifically mentioned anti-police brutality demonstrations as being one of the motivations for the bylaw.

Montreal has had increasingly militant resistance to police violence, especially since the cops murdered Fred Villanueva, an unarmed 18 year old, last August. Montreal police are known to engage in widespread racial profiling and assaults on the homeless.

Protesters wear masks in order to protect themselves from repression by the state, as the police regularly monitor, harass, and arrest on false charges people they know to be activists. Others fear they may lose their jobs if their employer finds out they attended a demonstration. Masks are also used by performers engaged in creative street theater.

Even though the bylaw is a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the constitution (the prevention of crime is not within the jurisdiction of a municipality), it is likely to pass as the mayor’s party has a majority on the council. In another troubling move, Montreal city council also considering a bylaw that would make it an offense to “insult the police” by using terms like “pig” or “doughnut eater”.

People from all over Canada should protest this offense against civil liberties. If the bylaw is passed and upheld in Montreal, we will see similar laws enacted across the country.