Riot bill gets backing from federal government
Participants of riots and unlawful assemblies can run but they won’t be able to hide if Wild Rose MP Blake Richards’ new bill continues through Parliament.
“This will help prevent riots or unlawful assembles from occurring because it’s a deterrent effect,” Richards said of Private Members Bill, C-309.
The “Preventing Persons from Concealing Their Identity During Riots and Unlawful Assemblies Act,” introduced to Parliament by Richards in April, was endorsed by the government on May 6 and is currently being debated in the House of Commons.
“I was talking to police, and what they were telling me is the biggest problem they’ve had during these instances where there’s an unlawful assembly or where there’s riots is identifying the people involved,” said Richards of his inspiration to champion the bill.
If C-309 becomes law, it would make wearing a mask during a riot punishable by up to 10 years in prison and wearing a mask during an unlawful assembly punishable by up to six months in prison or a $5,000 fine, Richards said.
“Vancouver is a great example, there was 15,000 documented criminal acts but there were only 226 charges because they couldn’t identify the individuals involved, because their faces were covered.”
Richards said participating in unlawful assemblies and riots is already a crime clearly defined by the Canadian Criminal Code, his bill would just add on punishment to those caught inciting or partaking in these situations. He added the bill will help police quell dangerous public gatherings before they become a full-blown riot. Richards said he consulted with police officers who worked enforcement during the Vancouver Stanley Cup riots last June and the G-20 protests that erupted into violence in June 2010 in Toronto. The officers told him the same thing: They can see who is about to disrupt a peaceful protest or public gathering but have little recourse to stop the situation from worsening.
“What police are finding is at peaceful public gatherings, you have a small group of people coming with the intent to cause a riot,” Richards said.“They bring a tool kit with them, it’s got a mask, disguise, dark clothing, a hammer to break windows, things to start fires and objects they can throw at the police.”
Richards said his bill would protect those attending and organizing public protests. He added those wearing gas masks or covering their faces once tear gas is deployed likely won’t be arrested as long as they are trying to leave the area.
“I have to make it clear that this in no way makes it a criminal act for someone to wear a mask at a peaceful demonstration.”