Back during the 2010 Olympics a group of masked thugs terrorized the city smashing windows, throwing around furniture & newspaper boxes, and clashing in a street fight with the police. The violence was enabled by David Eby, then the head of the BC Civil Liberties Association. Eby had prior knowledge of what was to happen and, on request of the criminals, he withdrew the BCCLA’s legal observers so that they couldn’t be used as witnesses for the crimes that were to happen that day. It was not until after the damage was done that Eby spoke out against the crimes. To date, no apologies have been made for enabling the violence.
As a result of this and other violent incidents the federal government has passed bill C-309, a law that bans the use of masks during a riot or an unlawful assembly- the maximum penalty will now be a 10 year prison sentence. Most Canadians and peaceful activists look at this as a positive step towards disabling criminals from disrupting and perverting peaceful protests. Unfortunately, it appears the BCCLA doesn’t agree.
A good way to understand the value of this bill is to compare the violence that occurred during the Olympics with the results of Vancouver’s 2011 hockey riot. The thugs who came to cause trouble at the Olympics were well prepared, they brought weapons and they carried masks- as a result of their disguises, very few of the criminals were caught and convicted. The hockey riots were very different, the majority of people committing crimes that night weren’t wearing masks- as a result, there were a significant amount of arrests and convictions.
Wearing masks during a riot enables criminals to get away with their crimes…
When interviewed about Bill C-309 by the CBC, Michael Byers of the BCCLA took a very different stance saying:
“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,”
First, when comparing what happened at the Olympics and the hockey riot, there’s a clear and present need for a law to restrict criminals from wearing masks while participating in riots. When people are unable to hide themselves it’s a lot more difficult for them to get away with their crimes.
But, even more important, there’s no infringement on people’s civil liberties by banning their use of disguises while committing a crime. The bill doesn’t ban people’s ability to wear masks at legal assemblies and protests, it only bans their use during riots and illegal assemblies.
Compare this to the concept of a person possessing burglary tools. It’s perfectly okay for a person to be in possession of a crowbar- but the moment that crowbar is used to pry open a window during a burglary, the person using it has crossed the line. It’s the same with a mask, it’s okay to wear one during a peaceful protest, but not okay if you’re part of a riot.
Byers is a law professor at the University of British Columbia. He’s smarter than this- we’re all smarter than this. One really has to wonder what his motivations are here…