Protesting in Calgary
Know your laws
The following laws and bylaws have sections addressing protests and demonstrations:
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Section 2, guarantees your right to believe what you choose and to express your view and values.
However, as disclosed in the Public Order Emergency Commission inquiry, only “peaceful” assemblies are protected and all rights protected by the Charter are subject to reasonable limits. No rights are absolute.
Organizing or attending an event
If you are planning to attend or organize an event or demonstration:
Your rights and responsibilities
- Gather peacefully to assert your rights
- Express your thoughts, beliefs and opinions
- Get your message out in a lawful way
- Have freedom of association
- Block or obstruct a roadway
- Cause a disturbance or take part in a riot
- Wear a disguise during an unlawful assembly or with intent to commit an indictable offence
- Disobey a court order
- Harm or injure anyone
- Possess weapons of any kind, including substances such as tear gas
- Trespass on private property
- Impede a parade
- Leave private property immediately if requested by the owner or an agent of the owner. You may be arrested and are subject to being charged with trespassing if you refuse to leave.
- Provide your personal information if arrested by a peace officer. You are legally required to provide your information and failure to do so could result in criminal charges.
The role of police in demonstrations
Everyone has a right to feel safe in our community. The Calgary Police Service’s objective is to work with all parties to ensure public and officer safety and to maintain orderly conduct and peace. We police behaviour, not beliefs.
The Calgary Police Service will:
- Work with groups who want to organize an event that provides a safe and peaceful opportunity for demonstrators to exercise their lawful rights
- Dialogue and work with all those affected by an event
- In the case of traffic disruptions, work with those involved to minimize the impact on the travelling public and work to restore the orderly flow of traffic in the safest manner possible
- Preserve the peace and maintain public safety
- Work with property owners or their agent(s) to remove people from their property if they have been asked to leave
- Investigate criminal wrongdoing in accordance with legislated responsibilities and in the best interests of all involved
- Respond to unlawful events in an appropriate manner. Violence and criminal activity will not be tolerated.
Consider your actions
Protesting unlawfully has the potential to affect your future. In addition to Criminal Code and municipal bylaw offences, there may also be provincial and municipal statutes that apply during demonstrations, such as the Traffic Safety Act. Charges resulting in a criminal record could result in things like:
- Travel limitations
- Possibility of limited employment prospects
- Impacts when obtaining insurance or renting housing
- Financial hardship due to fine payments
- Further legal consequences if breaching a court order
Communicate with police and ask questions
The Calgary Police Service Police Liaison Team (PLT) responds to events such as demonstrations, protests, rallies, vigils and labour disputes. Our liaison officers work with individuals or groups to help facilitate peaceful events. Liaison officers are a great resource for those planning on organizing or attending an event.
To get in touch with the Police Liaison Team, contact Const. Chris Terry.
Community events or protests involving motor vehicles
The primary concern of the Calgary Police with vehicle-based events is participant, public and officer safety. Community events involving motor vehicles are more challenging to organize and pose a heightened risk, which can be increased when the event does not have City of Calgary permits and roads closures.
Vehicle-focused events carry the potential for traffic violations that can adversely impact the safety of all road users including other drivers, pedestrians and cyclists. Holding an event that is mobile in nature can distract the driver and other drivers from the very serious task at hand – safe operation of a motor vehicle. Drivers who are preoccupied pose a significant risk of being involved in a serious injury or fatal collision.
If you are considering a community car rally, motorcade, or other similar vehicle-based event:
- Consult with the Calgary Police Service prior to your event.
- Consider a ‘stationary’ event whenever possible – we can better ensure the safety of all involved when motor vehicles are not involved.
- Drivers must follow all rules of the road, including the Traffic Safety Act and its associated regulations as well as Calgary bylaws.
- Follow all posted speed limits, signage and traffic control devices. Avoid driving slowly to keep the group together or blocking intersections.
- Avoid high-speed roadways such as Deerfoot Trail, Stoney Trail or Crowchild Trail and busy roadways such as 17th Avenue, Fourth Street S.W. or Macleod Trail.
- Avoid groups of more than 10 vehicles at a time.
- Remain focused on the task of driving – never drive distracted.
- Utilize occupant restraints for all occupants of a motor vehicle – seatbelts and child seats. Passengers should remain inside the vehicle and not hang out of windows, sunroofs, etc.
- Do not affix items to the vehicle that may hinder visibility or become dislodged from the vehicle, presenting a road hazard.
- Avoid gathering on private property as a staging area or destination point. If using private property, ensure required permissions are obtained.
- Remember that engaging in a ‘community event’ does not confer any special status on a driver. Drivers and occupants are still subject to all applicable laws and related enforcement action.
- Always be considerate and mindful of other road users - pedestrians, cyclists, and other motorists. This will go a long way in promoting goodwill towards your cause.
Organizers and participants are advised that the CPS Traffic Section or other police officers may attend the event and provide direction to participants to maximize public and participant safety. Organizers and participants should be aware that this may include:
- Breaking up the group into smaller groups of vehicles
- Education about possible violations of the Traffic Safety Act and/or Calgary bylaws
- Enforcement of traffic violations either during or after the event
- Recording any event on body-worn cameras and in-car video, and where violations of the law occur.
- Subsequently pursuing charges against those involved if criminal activity occurs.
Other things to know
Event activities may interrupt the normal flow of traffic. The travelling public is advised to check ahead for road closure information and to monitor local media for information and alternative routes.
- Due to safety concerns for both law enforcement and members of the community, it is not always prudent to issue a ticket or lay a charge at the time of an alleged offence.
- Please do not take the perceived appearance of a lack of enforcement as a reflection of our intent to hold those who flout the law accountable.
- In many instances, tickets are issued in the hours or days after an infraction based on evidence obtained at the time of the event.
- Our primary function at the time of the demonstration is to ensure public and officer safety. Enforcement will come after the fact, as required.
How to report crimes
We encourage anyone who is the victim of a crime to report it to the police non-emergency number at 403-266-1234.
Apply for a noise exemption permit
Noise at major events
Planning a festival or event with The City
Special events on private property
Outdoor special event fire code requirements
Indoor special event fire code requirements
Alcohol and Cannabis Consumption – Zero Tolerance