Although they rarely happen, riots do occur whether we like it or not. Youth may participate in these riots for various reasons, ranging from a form of protest to merely following the crowd. Most recently, we have witnessed riots in Vancouver after the Stanley Cup finals. The following is some legal info on riots. If you have specific questions please speak to a lawyer directly. You can contact JFCY at 1-866-999-5329 or 416-920-1633 (within the GTA).
I was just protesting, I was not rioting!
- There is a difference between freedom of expression and rioting.
o Freedom of expression is guaranteed under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, S. 2(b), it has been read broadly as including any activity that conveys, or attempts to convey, meaning to the exception of acts of violence and threats of violence. Peaceful protests are protected by Freedom of Expression.
o A riot is an unlawful assembly that has begun to disturb the peace tumultuously (Criminal Code of Canada, S. 64). The key difference here is that rioting involves violence against authority, property or people, which is a criminal offence. People can face criminal charges and be brought to court. Rioting may also involve other offences, such as assault, mischief and/or arson.
How much force can the police use against me?
- Police officers are allowed to use as much force as they believe, in good faith and on reasonable grounds, is necessary to suppress a riot and is not excessive (Criminal Code of Canada, S. 32). If you think the police have overstepped their authority you should tell your lawyer.
If the police believe that I am rioting, do they have to charge me?
- No, the police have other options when dealing with youth like giving you a warning or a caution, but this is to their discretion.
If the police charge me with rioting, do they have to take me to the police station or detain me?
- No. The police do not have to detain you. If the police detain you, both you and your parent(s) will get notices that explain:
o The offence(s) with which you are charged,
o The date and time when you must be in court,
o The court’s address, and
o Your right to be represented by a lawyer.
For more information on what to do when you are being questioned by the police refer to this previous blogpost here
For a guide to the youth court process in Toronto, refer to this information pamphlet
Public Legal Education Coordinator