Peaceful demonstrations

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You have the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. You also have the right to believe in what you choose and express your values.

We are committed to ensuring they remain peaceful, lawful and safe for organizers, participants and the broader community. We police behaviour, not beliefs.

Role of police*

The primary role of the police in any demonstration or assembly is to preserve the peace, protect life and property, and enforce the law.

  • As outlined above the fundamental freedoms of opinion, expression and peaceful assembly enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms must be recognized and respected. A safe and secure environment for all participants and communities while exercising these constitutionally protected rights is always a significant consideration.
  • Police have a statutory and common law duty to preserve the peace. The principles of peacekeeping are aimed at minimizing violence, keeping and restoring public order, maintaining impartiality, facilitating rights and establishing trusting relationships.
  • Police investigate and take appropriate action with respect to civil disobedience and other unlawful acts.
  • Police services should use discretion and the carefully measured approach outlined above, employing only the level of force necessary to: Ensure the safety of all citizens, enforce the law, enforce court orders/warrants, maintain/restore peace and to provide order and security.

* Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, National Framework for Police Preparedness for Demonstrations and Assemblies,  9

Organizing a demonstration.

Before organizing or participating in a peaceful demonstration, you may have questions. We can help with some answers. We can also direct you to other stakeholders that can assist.

Special Events Unit officers work with individuals and groups to help coordinate peaceful events. These events include demonstrations, protests, rallies, vigils celebrations and other similar type events. They are an excellent resource for those organizing or attending an event.

If you plan a demonstration, protest, rally, vigil, celebration or similar event, email WPS- An officer will contact you.

They can help you determine:

  • if you require a permit for your rally, demonstration, protest, etc.
  • other city departments you may need to contact,
  • what other events may be planned in proximity to your event in terms of location and timing that could create a conflict.

Officers can also direct you to other notable resources, such as:

  • City of Winnipeg By-law 1573/77, sections 9 through 11, provides greater insight into the parade permit process.
  • the City of Winnipeg Use of Street Permit, should your event involve a shutdown of, or the temporary occupation of, a street.
  • the Highway Traffic Act, which will provide insight into what is and is not legal on near roadways.

Working together, we can coordinate peaceful and safe demonstrations.

Attending a peaceful demonstration

If you plan to attend a peaceful demonstration, please know we are there for your safety.

What you can do at a demonstration

  • Gather to assert your rights peacefully
  • Lawfully, express your thoughts, beliefs and opinions
  • Get your messaging out in a lawful way
  • Have freedom of association

What you can't do at a demonstration

  • Block or obstruct a highway
  • Breach the peace
  • Cause a disturbance, take part in a riot
  • Wear a mask or disguise during an unlawful assembly or wear a mask or disguise with intent to commit an indictable offence.
  • Disobey a Court Order
  • Harm or injure anyone
  • Have weapons of any kind, including replicas

Be aware that participating in an unlawful demonstration can have consequences that could affect your future. You are at risk of civil liability if private property is involved. If your behavior is unlawful you may be charged with an offence that that may result in a fine or a criminal conviction. A criminal record may result in consequences such as:

  • travel limitations
  • limited employment prospects
  • restrictions when obtaining insurance or renting housing
  • further legal consequences if breaching a court order

Police at your peaceful demonstration

Members of the Police Liaison Team may be at your event.

Liaison Teams are a key art of police planning and response to major events and conflict situations.  The Liaison Team focuses on proactive relationship building to establish and maintain communication with stakeholders to facilitate prevention and/or conflict de-escalation.

They will make contact with organizers to share as much information as possible. They will connect with community stakeholders whom your event may impact. They are distinguishable by the vests they wear, identifying them as Police Liaison Team members.

Other officers may be in the area to assist. For example, traffic officers and cadets may be present to help with traffic management.

Should a peaceful demonstration become less than peaceful or counter-protestors be present, other uniformed officers may attend for the safety of all involved. The goal is always to ensure public safety and the maintenance of order.

We believe that early intervention can diffuse or minimize a volatile situation. Our officers use a measured approach to public safety and the maintenance of order. We have specially trained officers that can help rescue injured civilians and officers from within a crowd. These same officers have the training and equipment to disperse unsafe crowds if necessary.

Hate speech has no place

Hate speech has no place in our community or at any demonstration. It can be a chargeable offence under the Criminal Code of Canada.

As outlined in Sections 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code the following are all considered hate speech:

  • advocating genocide;
  • public incitement of hatred;
  • willful promotion of hatred; and
  • willful promotion of antisemitism.

The legislation references willfully promoting hatred against an "identifiable group". Groups may be based on colour, race, religion, ethnicity, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, mental or physical disability.

Charges under Hate legislation require the Attorney General of Manitoba's consent. Before bringing Hate charges forward, police will consider:

  • if the comments are made in a public place;
  • if the comments likely led to a breach of the peace;
  • the motivation of the perpetrator;
  • the comments made during the offence;
  • the perception of the targeted victims;
  • the display of hate symbols, gestures and language;
  • ongoing patterns of harassment, humiliation, or intimidation.
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