Montreal council axing by-law that bans face-covering at protests
Montrealers will officially be able to cover their faces with masks or bandanas during protests again, as the city moves forward with scrapping a bylaw prohibiting it.
The bylaw, which was originally put in place 50 years ago as a measure to force demonstrators at protests throughout the city to rally with their faces revealed, allowing police to better identify participants who may be violating other lies, mayor Valerie Plante announced on Wednesday.
During a speaking event to the city’s executive committees, Mayor Plante said that the city’s police are well-equipped enough with the tools of the Criminal Code and the Highway Code to give ample ability to monitor and control public demonstrations.
The bylaw, which originally passed in 1969 as a means to maintain public safety and order, was amended during the Montreal student tuition hike protests in 2012 to include bans on all facial coverings during demonstrations. The bylaw also places obligation on protest organizers to provide city officials with march routes.
Then-opposition Projet Montreal criticized the 2012 amendments, claiming that they were put into place as a reactionary measure to the protests. In the years since those protests, the move to remove the bylaw has been supported by “a serious of court judgments, overturning the amendments as unconstitutional.”
Plante said a motion calling for the elimination of the bylaw will be tabled at the next meeting of city council on Monday.
Montreal’s history of masked protests
The city isn’t prone to masked protestors causing trouble, though. Recent May Day celebrations, a day chosen by communist and socialist groups as International Workers Day, have proven dangerous.
The 2012 protest in downtown Montreal, led by the anti-capitalist group CLAC Montreal (convergence des luttes anti capitalistes: Translation, ‘convergence of anti-capitalist struggles,’) quickly turned into a violent riot in which 108 people arrested and 33 charged, many of them masked.
In 2017, two masked members of the Black Bloc assaulted two Global News journalists, going so far as to announce a call to violence against journalists covering future protests, in order to “make demonstrations safer.”
The group released a post on Montreal Counter-Information titled “No face, no case: in defence of smashing corporate media cameras.”
The post read: “Sometimes, it is necessary to go against what the mainstream considers ‘acceptable,’ to break the law in order to do the ethical thing,” the post read. “Those who mask up to fight the racist far-right have decided, at great personal risk, that they will use any means necessary to shut down fascist organizing.”
A 2019 Anti-capitalist rally in downtown Montreal saw a group of 300 protesters throw smoke bombs and firecrackers, all while smashing windows of businesses on route.
Police arrested five people for what they described as “multiple criminal acts” and handed out multiple tickets for vandalism and mischief, such as breaking windows. Many of these protestors were masked.
Left-wing activist Jaggi Singh has been released of all charges in a Quebec City court, due to the city’s inability to hold a trial in English.
Singh, who was facing charges of Obstruction of Justice, was also facing charges of impersonation after being arrested by police and giving the name “Michel Goulet,” with a home address of “the Colosseum,” attempting to impersonate a former Quebec Nordic of the same name.
After 29 months of charges being laid, the trial began—but Quebec’s chief prosecutor Steve Marquis had to postpone the trial.
Mainly due to the fact that the main prosecutor, Marie-Helene Guillemette, has been absent on maternity leave.
This meant that Marquis would have to carry out the trial, but due to his very limited English, the trial would not be proceeding as planned.
Judge Guillemette had set the trial for January without mentioning that she would be absent on maternity leave, something that judges say boiled down to disorganization.
With no one able to hold the trial, Justice Bordeleau announced that Singh would be acquitted of the two charges against him.
In an interview after the decision, Singh chalked up the acquittal to the court “self-sabotaging,” knowing that the Crown would lose in a full trial.
Singh later returned to Montreal, telling media that his struggle “is not in the courtrooms,” but is rather against the “far right.”
Singh has a long history of activism in his hometown Montreal and throughout Canada.
In 2002, Singh participated in an anti-Israel protest against Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu, held by the Hillel club at Concordia University. The talk was later cancelled, as the event turned into a violent clash between protestors and security.
In January 2003, Singh was deported by Israeli authorities after having gone to the West Bank.
On April 19, 2006, Singh was arrested at a pro-Palestinian poetry event at El Salon cafe. There are conflicting reports as to why Singh was arrested, though local police say they were responding to an alleged assault on a taxi driver.
Valentin Auclair, a 38-year-old resident of Granby, Quebec, a town approximately an hour’s drive east of Montreal will be faced with a count of wilful promotion of genocide against an identifiable group, two separate counts of wilful promotion of hatred against an identifiable group, as well as a charge of hate speech.
These charges come after concerning online activity that has been active as recently as Jan. 5 of 2020. The activity of Auclair was first noticed by Quebec college professor Xavier Camus, who monitors extremism within Quebec and sent a detailed tip to Granby authorities.
It was learned that the hate speech used by Auclair was coming from VK, a popular Russian social media platform.
A quick investigation led by Granby Police resulted in a Tuesday court appearance by Auclair.
According to CTV News, the content Auclair shared “allegedly included images promoting Aryan white supremacy and hateful comments about Jews, Muslims, the LGBTQ community and other minority groups. He also allegedly sympathized with neo-Nazis and applauded several mass killers, including the men behind the Quebec City mosque attack and the Montreal Polytechnique massacre.”
As reported by the Canadian Jewish News, Auclair “continued to propagate what (Professor) Camus terms ‘genocidal fantasies’ glorifying Hitler, ranting about Zyklon B and ‘a pile of cadavers,’ about Jews, black people, Arabs, Asians and Latinos.”
Caroline Garland, a spokesperson for the Granby Police said in a statement that “this is an accusation which is still rare in the past few years and it is an individual with no criminal priors.”
Auclair’s case is believed to be the first case that deals with online hate to be tried this year.
Online hate continues to be a reoccurring issue in Canada and was studied in depth by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in the previous session of Parliament.
Canadian municipalities are dumping an estimated 400 billion gallons of raw sewage every year. Quebec is the worst offender—leading all other provinces in their failure to meet federal water safety regulations, according to documents obtained through an access to information request by news outlet Blacklock’s Reporter.
The Department of the Environment stated that of the 3.4 billion cubic metres flushed per year across Canada, 374 billion gallons went untreated and did not meet the limits. The department’s researchers also predict the actual discharges are likely much higher.
“These volumes do not include releases from combined sewer overflows, sanitary sewer overflows or any other discharges occurring at a point other than the final discharge point,” staff from the department wrote.
The research involved looking at 1,737 sewage plants across Canada.
In 2012, the Harper government attempted to tackle sewage dumping, however, it was largely viewed as ineffective. So far, eighty-five lethal waste discharges have occurred in 2016: 42 in Quebec; twelve in Ontario; and nine in Alberta. These have often resulted in the fish-killing sewage being leaked into Canada’s waterways.
In late 2015, the federal government waived penalties against Montreal for releasing eight billion litres of sewage into the St. Lawrence River, with then-Environment Minister Catherine McKenna approving the dump under several conditions.
CBC’s The Fifth Estate aired a broadcast on antifa Sunday night, and at times the 30-minute episode read more as an advertisement for the extremist group than an investigative report.
“Right-wing hate is growing everywhere, including Canada. And it is being met with a movement desperate to stamp it out.” Fifth Estate host Gillian Findlay said, introducing antifa. The activists The Fifth Estate utilized for the episode were mostly anonymous.
No mention was made of the antifa assaults on CBC and Global News videographers, and the promises of violence against journalists from Canadian Antifa Black Bloc. And despite montages of politicians warning of the threat of far-right violence, The Fifth Estate also failed to note that both the FBI and Homeland Security in the United States have repeatedly warned of the violent threat posed by antifa.
At one point in the documentary, Findlay oversees the doxing of two alleged members of Quebecois nationalist group Atalante. Their names, photos, and places of employment are broadcasted in full by CBC, without redactions of any kind.
The documentary can be viewed here:
When asked about freedom of speech, one antifa member said, “We believe they are not entitled to say things that will threaten the rights and safety of other people.” And then went on to praise violence as a necessary component of their activity.
After Findlay challenged another antifa activist on doxing individuals who had not committed any crimes, he says “A neo-nazi project is by definition a violent program. The difference is that I don’t have a hateful project. My project is based on diversity and inclusion.”
The Fifth Estate’s episode emphasized white supremacist and right-wing violence as a growing concern and comes at a time when a wave of anti-Semitic attacks by Black Hebrew Israelites and affiliated actors is gripping many Jewish communities.