It is still possible to protest despite the pandemic. The right to protest is protected by both charters of rights. Public health measures must be followed though. Plus, the government has restricted places where protests against public health measures can take place.
Protesting: A Fundamental Right
The right to protest is protected by both the Quebec and the Canadian charters. The charters protect two fundamental rights: freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly. In 2019, the Quebec Court of Appeal stated that these two freedoms create a right to protest.
It is generally possible to protest in the street, on the sidewalk, in a park, or in a public space because these are places for people to gather and express themselves publicly. In fact, the Court of Appeal struck down a municipal by-law that required either protest organizers or participants to tell police the route or the time and place of a protest. The Court said this rule violated protected freedoms.
Illegal Near Certain Places
However, it is illegal to protest against COVID-19 vaccination or public health measures less than 50 meters from the grounds of certain places:
- a COVID-19 testing site (including a mobile clinic)
- a COVID-19 vaccination site (including a mobile clinic)
- a facility in the health and social services network (such as a hospital, a CLSC, a long-term care centre [CHSLD], etc.)
- a daycare
- a kindergarten, elementary, or high school
People who protest less than 50 meters from these places, or who incite or organize such a protest, can be fined from $1,000 to $6,000.
In addition, people who threaten or intimidate someone who is entering one of these places can be fined from $2,000 to $12,000.
These restrictions are in place until the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency.
Rules to Follow
Protesters must wear a mask or a cloth that covers both the nose and the mouth. It must also be well adjusted. The protest organizer must take steps to remind protesters that wearing a face-covering is mandatory.
In addition, protesters must stay two metres apart from each other.
Police can fine anyone who does not follow these rules. The fines can range from $1,000 to $6,000.
More for legal information about COVID-19, please see our special guide.