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Protesting Is Now Illegal in Toronto

Toronto. Ontario. The government has declared that protesting is now illegal in Toronto, and, probably in all of Ontario.

Originally published by Montreal Counter-Information.

On Saturday, January 16th, the Toronto Police Service tweeted the following:

So, it’s official. The government has declared that protesting is now illegal in Toronto, and, probably in all of Ontario.

Doug Ford has essentially said that leaving your home for “non-essential” reasons is not allowed. What is and what isn’t essential?

Thankfully, Dougie helpfully clarifies: “I know essential means different things to different people … so we need everyone to use their best judgment. If you’re not sure if a trip is absolutely essential, it probably isn’t,” he said.

Couldn’t this be taken to mean that if you aren’t sure whether or not something is illegal, it probably is? Who gets to decide? Doesn’t this essentially give the police the police to arbitrarily stop and harass anyone for any number of reasons?

At which point do we call this a police state?

The Oxford dictionary defines “police state” thus: “a country where people’s freedom, especially to travel and to express political opinions, is controlled by the government, with the help of the police”.

Of course, whether or not it is actually is illegal is a different question, given that Canada is ostensibly a constitutional monarchy, where the constitution is the highest law in the land, but how much does that matter anymore?

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is part of the constitution, explicitly states that people have the freedom of assembly, the freedom of mobility, the freedom of expression, and freedom of religion, but that hasn’t stopped the state from introducing all kinds of draconian laws this year. Is a precedent being set that basic human rights do not apply in times of crisis?

This expansion of police powers is already having tragic consequences. Consider the tragic death of Scarborough resident Moses Demian. Hours after the events of this video, which shows Mr. Demian being arrested in a parking lot after being carded* by police, Mr. Demian took his own life.

This tragedy apparently occurred because Mr. Demian refused to produce ID when the police demanded it. Perhaps he felt that he had the right to hang out in a parking lot, and chose to assert his right. Perhaps he knew that he was not legally required to produce ID (Ontario law does require you to identify yourself verbally, but not to produce ID). Perhaps he was just fed up with being harassed, and voiced his frustration. In any case, he defied a cop, and now he’s dead.

It bears mentioning that Ontario’s lockdown law, in true Orwellian fashion, is called the “Reopening Ontario Act”. So I pose the question again: Are we living in a police state? And if we are, what is to be done?

*For those unfamiliar with the term “carding”, Wikipedia defines it as “an intelligence gathering policy involving the stopping, questioning, and documenting of individuals when no particular offence is being investigated”. Activists in Toronto have long denounced it as a racist practice, as police disproportionately target BIPOC folks. To learn more about the racist use of carding in Toronto, please refer to the work of black power activist Desmond Cole.

Fundraiser for the family of Moses Demian:

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article inaccurately stated that Moses Demian died in a jail cell. In fact, he committed suicide after being released from jail. The author regrets their error.

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