CCLA General Counsel Nathalie Des Rosiers and Project Director Abby Deshman have an opinion piece in the Toronto Star. An excerpt:
Public gatherings, whether communal political movements, spontaneous celebrations of sports victories or loud protests of discontent, all serve as societal moments for the expression of unity and solidarity or as outlets for the expression of outrage. While protests may be inconvenient, they are essential to democratic political life. The police should lead and educate by demonstrating an unrelenting commitment to all democratic values, including freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.
In this context, it is a positive step that the RCMP has listened to community outcry and removed the “designated protest zone” from Trinity Bellwoods Park.
There is a more fundamental point to be made here, however: there is no such thing as a “designated protest zone” or special “free speech zone.” The entire country is a free speech zone. Freedom of expression is protected in our Constitution, our traditions, our history, our democracy.
The role of the police should be to facilitate the exercise of free speech during this international showcase, no matter where peaceful dissent manifests itself. Their role is to work to ensure demonstrators and the general public are protected, to facilitate protesters’ rights to be heard and seen, and to mediate disputes that will inevitably arise when businesses, drivers or residents are inconvenienced by a public event — whether it be a fundraising bicycle race, a Santa Claus parade or a demonstration.