Thousands of activists, indigenous groups and others rally around environmental concerns

Peaceful Assembly

A proposed law (Bill 9) that creates a 'buffer zone' around abortion clinics is under consideration in Alberta's government. Bill 9 would require protesters to stand at least 50 metres away from medical facilities that provide abortions in and around Calgary and Edmonton. Opponents of the law say the measure limits their free speech rights. If the legislation were to pass, Alberta would join British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador in creating the protest-free zones around clinics, which were previously reported on the Monitor. 

Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline

Dubbed the Standing Rock of the North, ongoing protests in Burnaby, British Columbia against the Trans Mountain Kinder Morgan pipeline extension project show no signs of slowing. At least 170 people have been arrested during months of organised protest, including Member of Parliament for Saanich–Gulf Islands, Elizabeth May, on 23rd March. Several groups continue to protest at the company’s work sites, despite a court-ordered injunction that protesters stay at least 50 metres away from the Burnaby facilities. On 10th March, indigenous leaders led a march in Burnaby with thousands of people, some holding signs that read, "Water is life" and ''No consent, no pipeline". On 17th March, 28 people were arrested on the first day of a series of peaceful protests that brought together indigenous leaders, politicians, and celebrities. “We’ve collected here to take collective action, to take bold action to demonstrate to Justin Trudeau that this project is not in the national interest,” Clayton Thomas-Muller of the Stop It At the Source campaign said.

Challenging government policies and actions

On 11th March, protesters once again put up tents outside of a Calgary courthouse to show support for indigenous peoples. Garret Smith originally raised a tent outside of the Calgary Courts Centre following a not guilty verdict in the death of Tina Fontaine, an indigenous youth, in February. Now, he and others have returned to the courthouse to create a place they call Camp Mohkinstsis where people can gather and learn about the issues facing First Nation peoples. “I’m here to build relations with people; I’m here to build connections with people; I’m here to help build an understanding between our cultures and our nations,” said Smith.

On 12th March, about 30 people rallied outside the Immigration Minister’s office in Toronto asking the government to amend an immigration law that they say is discriminatory towards people living with disabilities. The Immigration and Refugee Protection Act denies permanent residency to an entire family if one member is sick or has a disability that would pose "excessive demand" on health or social services. Protesters held pictures of family members they say are affected by the law. As many as 1,000 families were rejected because of this law in 2014. Later on, on 16th April Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen announced changes to its policies "that will make it far easier for persons with disabilities and their family members to immigrate to Canada".

On 14th March, over 300 members of the University of Victoria community protested systemic racism in the country’s judicial system. Speakers cited recent cases where the deaths of indigenous young people returned non-guilty verdicts, which were also previously reported on the Monitor, and many called for amending a system they say does not meet the needs of a diverse population.

On 15th March, three police officers and one protestor were injured during a protest against police brutality in Montreal. Over 200 people turned out to mark the International Day Against Police Brutality and denounce what they claim is systematic racial and political profiling by the city's police force. Police wearing riot gear used tear gas to disperse a crowd after there were reports of store fronts being vandalised. At least three people were arrested.

On 24th March, more than a dozen cities hosted marches to call for stricter gun control laws in both Canada and the U.S. In Ottawa, Vancouver and Edmonton, several hundreds of people turned out in support of the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C.

On 20th April, thousands of marijuana users and supporters gathered in cities across the country to call for its legalisation. In Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and Ottawa, people participated in “smoke outs” and urged lawmakers to support a legalisation bill that will be voted on this summer.

Labour rights related protests

Since March, about 3,000 temporary and part-time faculty at York University in Toronto have been on strike for better wages and benefits. As many as 100 students also occupied the university’s Senate Chamber starting on 22nd March as part of a related protest against the process the school is using to determine if classes will be cancelled. One student may have been forcibly removed by a Senate security guard while trying to enter the building and the incident is under investigation. The York University’s Faculty Association (YUFA) argues that holding classes during the strike violates Senate policy. The Ontario government has appointed an arbitrator to investigate the dispute and help find a resolution.

On 24th March, nearly 500 doctors and other healthcare workers marched in Quebec to protest the government’s plans to increase wages for doctors. The province announced raises for specialist and general practitioners in February, but many doctors say nurses and other workers in the sector are being overlooked. A public letter criticising the pay raise was signed by over 500 doctors and medical students.

Upset over what they describe as arbitrary enforcement of rules by taxi company owners, taxi drivers in Winnipeg held a protest at a local shopping center on 26th April. The suspension of a veteran taxi driver prompted the action which brought together over 250 drivers to protest at Polo Park Shopping Center.

Protests related to LGTBI issues

On 23rd April, around 200 people rallied outside the British Colombia’s Teachers’ Federation headquarters in Victoria to protest the province's decision to introduce LGBT-inclusive education, known as SOGI 123, in area schools. Waving “Don’t mess with our children” signs, some parents said they should be allowed to decide whether their elementary school aged children participate in discussions about sexual identity. Across the street, people supporting the LGBT curriculum held a smaller counter-protest.

Environmental-related protests

On 11th April, dozens of people acting as an 'Unwelcoming Party' were prevented by police and security guards from entering the British Petroleum (BP) Canada office in Halifax. The protest was prompted by the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board’s decision to allow BP Canada to put one of its rigs in Canadian-Nova Scotia waters as part of preparations for drilling an exploratory well. The protesters, some carrying black balloons and dead flowers, left peacefully and no one was arrested.

Other protests

On 24th March, a right-wing Patriot Walk in Hamilton was overshadowed by a counter protest that drew over a 100 people. The original event, a Patriot Walk on Locke, had been organised by groups such as The Proud Boys, Soldiers of Odin and Ontario Northern Guard. After word of the event spread, a 'Locke Street Anti-Fascist Counter-Rally' was quickly planned for the same time and location. Police said they kept the two sides apart and no arrests were made.

Calling for religious freedom and for the release of religious prisoners in China, Chinese Canadians held rallies in cities across the country on 25th April. Events organised by Falun Gong practitioners and their supporters were held in cities such as Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton, and Vancouver to mark the 19th anniversary of China’s biggest freedom of religion protest.

Expression

Parliament is considering legislation (C-59) on national security. Opponents claim the bill lacks adequate protections against abuse of power and could poses threats to freedom of expression and other fundamental rights. A public watchdog group has warned that:

“From mass dissemination of false information, to impersonation, leaking foreign documents in order to influence political and legal outcomes, disabling account or network access, large-scale denial of service attacks, and interference with the electricity grid, the possibilities for the types of activities contemplated in (Bill C-59) are limited only by the imagination”. 

The bill is expected to be amended as it works its way through Parliament.

On 13th March, a Radio-Canada reporter was arrested in Quebec after he asked a woman he was investigating for an interview. Antoine Trépanier was arrested, but not charged, after he repeatedly contacted Yvonne Dubé, executive director of Big Brothers and Big Sisters. According to Trépanier, police called him and told him to report to the police station because he was under arrest for criminal harassment. The police chief later admitted they made a mistake in charging the reporter and all charges were dropped.

On 19th March, Ontario’s top court ruled that a man did not break any laws by holding a sign with offensive language in a public park. Fredrick Bracken had pursued legal action after police threatened him with trespassing charges if he continued to hold a sign saying, “Trump is right. F... China. F... Mexico” at a Niagara Falls park. “In a free society, individuals are permitted to use open public spaces to address the people assembled there, to challenge each other, and to call government to account,” the Appeal Court said.

On 22nd March, a Quebec Superior Court judge issued a ruling compelling a journalist to reveal her confidential sources in a case involving two politicians charged with corruption. The ruling overturned a lower court's decision to throw out prosecutor's requests to have Radio-Canada's Marie-Maude Denis testify about her reporting and sources. The Superior Court judge ruled that Denis must testify about her sources, saying that the public interest in a fair trial outweighs the recently-adopted law protecting journalistic sources. In a statement, Radio-Canada said, "The protection of confidential sources is fundamental to investigative journalism," and has vowed to appeal the decision. Denis and other reporters had been targeted by Quebec police in 2013 as part of a surveillance operation to track their phones and identify their sources.

Association

On 26th February, an Ontario Superior Court judge ruled that three student clubs had not been improperly denied funding or status at different schools. Combining three similar cases into one, the Court upheld a lower court’s ruling, finding that there is “no entitlement to union club status, and official status has nothing to do with freedom to associate or freedom of expression”. Two of the proposed student groups had an anti-abortion focus, and the third was called the Men’s Issues Awareness Society.