Sarnia Police Service

Community Demonstrations & Protests

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees certain rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly.

Section 2 of the Charter states that everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:

  • freedom of conscience and religion;
  • freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
  • freedom of peaceful assembly; and
  • freedom of peaceful association.

These Rights Are Not Without Limits

The Supreme Court has recognized that "freedom of expression does not extend to protect threats of violence or acts of violence. It would not protect the destruction of property, assaults, or other clearly unlawful conduct." In addition, in some cases, the reasonable limits prescribed by law will also apply.

Section 1 of the Charter, which provides for limitations on rights and freedoms, states: The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it, subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.

The following is a list of some of the relevant Criminal Code of Canada sections that limit certain activities:

  • blocking or obstructing a highway (Section 423(1)(g))
  • causing a disturbance (Section 175)
  • common nuisance (Section 180)
  • interfering with transportation facilities (Section 248)
  • breach of the peace or imminent breach (Section 31)
  • offensive volatile substance (Section 178)
  • riots (Sections 32, 33, 64, 65, 67, 68, 69)
  • unlawful assembly (Section 63)
  • mischief (Section 430)

Police officers have a sworn duty to preserve the peace, prevent offences, enforce the law, protect property, preserve life and protect against serious injury, among other duties. These duties have their basis in common law and statutes, including the Community Safety and Policing Act and the Criminal Code of Canada.

The SPS’s objectives are:

  • to maintain public order and preserve the peace;
  • to remain neutral where possible and facilitate the building of trust between police, participants and the community;
  • to ensure the safety and security of the public and the emergency services personnel;
  • to minimize disruption for Sarnia residents, businesses and visitors;
  • to identify and assess threat and risk and develop contingency plans to mitigate where required;
  • to provide security commensurate to the threat level, and;
  • to enforce laws and investigate offences where warranted while respecting the democratic freedoms of thought, belief, opinion, expression and peaceful assembly.

We will ensure the members working on the day of your protest as well as our Duty Officers (copied) are aware of your event and as always if there is a concern for your safety or anyone else, please call 9-1-1.

While the intent of the protest is to be peaceful, it is often beyond the organizers' control who shows up.

There are four offences in the Code that specifically pertain to hate; they fall under the Hate-Propaganda section and they are as follows:

  • Section 318 - Advocating Genocide
  • Section 319 (1) - Public Incitement of Hatred
  • Section 319 (2) - Wilful Promotion of Hatred
  • Section 430 (4.1) - Mischief Relating to Religious Property