Conservative MP Blake Richards said he is feeling confident about his bill that would make it a crime to wear a mask during a riot.
The Alberta MP’s bill, first debated in November, seeks to amend the Criminal Code so that it would be an offence to wear a disguise while participating in a riot or an unlawful assembly. It is already illegal to take part in a riot or unlawful assembly, but this bill would create a separate offence related to wearing a disguise while participating.
Richards then talks about who the bill “targets” as though he has some control over that. And that’s the fatal flaw in scapegoat bills like this: they criminalize arbitrary distinctions with the goal of targeting certain people, but laws like this apply to everyone. It’s the same as the rhetoric Vic Toews is using saying his online security bill only targets child pornographers, as though they’re the only people who use the internet.
What constitutes a mask or a disguise? How much of the face needs to be covered? Can I wear a hat and sunglasses if the riot happens on a sunny day? If a guy like Richards — who must really hate protesters considering he created this bill in response to the G20 riots in Toronto and “Stanley Cup Shenanigans 2: 1994 Forever” in Vancouver even though he represents Alberta — if this guy is going to invent a law to make it easy for police to arbitrarily detain people they can’t identify, he’s going to need a less flimsy pretense.
But this is my favourite part:
… the burden of proof would be on the person to prove he or she is concealing his or her identity for a legitimate purpose.
If it were to become law, a violation would mean a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, but Richards said during debate that he is open to increasing that to 10 to bring it in line with the existing Criminal Code offences related to wearing a disguise.
I suppose if you’re going to take a swing as wild as this, it might as well be for the fences.
Then again, if the lawyer suing the police for unlawfully arresting him during the G20 has any success with $25,000 damages claim, I might be inclined to wear a balaclava to the next Occupy Toronto march. Perhaps Richards should leave protest laws to the places where protests actually happen instead of back-seat governing.