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Public Order Emergency Commission


Those who participated in the 2022 protest convoy were exercising their rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms when the federal government declared an emergency, creating a large secure zone and dispersing the truckers’ demonstration. These rights, including and especially freedom of peaceful assembly, form the backdrop to consideration of the federal government’s decision to declare an emergency under the Emergencies Act and enact regulations for bringing the demonstrations to an end.

Though it is one of the Charter’s fundamental freedoms, s.2(c)’s freedom of peaceful assembly received little or no attention in the first 40 years of Charter interpretation and jurisprudence. The circumstances of the protect convoy and its dispersal under the Emergencies Act bring s.2(c) into the spotlight and call for a discussion of the guarantee.

This background paper was commissioned and prepared for the Public Order Emergency Commission. Its purpose was to propose a conception of peaceful assembly under the Charter that could guide and inform the work of the POE Commission. Specifically, the paper examines s.2(c)’s underlying values and purposes to create a foundation for peaceful assembly. In addition, it considers how s.2(c) should be interpreted, proposing a definition of peaceful assembly and standard of breach. Finally, it considers justifiable limits on assembly under s.1 of the Charter, identifying principles that guide the determination of reasonable limits. In developing this proposal, the analysis relies on the Charter jurisprudence, and draws additionally on other sources, including the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and international human rights guarantees.