Emergencies Act inquiry studies fundamental rights and freedoms at stake in protests

Probing rights, freedoms

Experts who study the Canadian Charter say the limits around the freedom of peaceful assembly are not well defined, and that can create a challenging situation when the right to assembly conflicts with the rights of other people.

The commission investigating the government's decision to invoke the Emergencies Act is set to hear from eight experts about the fundamental rights and freedoms at stake during last winter's "Freedom Convoy" protests.

The discussion is the first of several that will make up the policy phase of the inquiry, which will be used to draft recommendations to modernize the Emergencies Act.

Jamie Cameron, a professor at York University's Osgoode Hall Law School, says there's been very little discussion about the right to peaceful assembly at the Supreme Court, leaving the reasonable limits on that freedom a bit murky.

She says some people argue the line should only be drawn if a protest becomes violent, but others believe a protest can become disruptive enough that it is no longer peaceful.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergencies Act on Feb. 14 after thousands of protesters associated with the "Freedom Convoy" blockaded downtown Ottawa and key border crossings, causing weeks of disruptions to Canada's trade corridors, businesses and residents in those communities.

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