(what?) the Po-lice!
July 30, 2006 11:38 PM   Subscribe

What are my rights, as a canadian citizen, dealing with police?

After reading about some disturbing events in the US detailing the arrest and mistreatment of citizens whose only apparent crime was the recording of police activity, I’m interested in looking out for my own rights in that respect, as a Canadian citizen.

I’ve realized that much of what I expect to be true in my interactions with the Police is informed by my consumption of US media, where, for example, there are property rights enshrined in the constitution, and the 4th amendment exists. Here in Canada, neither of those things are true.

I’m not so much interested in what the practical rights are, but rather what my legal rights are.
posted by ChrisR to Law & Government (15 answers total)
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Legal Rights

Life, liberty and security of person
7. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

Search or seizure
8. Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.

Detention or imprisonment
9. Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

Arrest or detention
10. Everyone has the right on arrest or detention

a) to be informed promptly of the reasons therefor;
b) to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right; and
c) to have the validity of the detention determined by way of habeas corpus and to be released if the detention is not lawful.

Proceedings in criminal and penal matters
11. Any person charged with an offence has the right

a) to be informed without unreasonable delay of the specific offence;
b) to be tried within a reasonable time;
c) not to be compelled to be a witness in proceedings against that person in respect of the offence;
d) to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal;
e) not to be denied reasonable bail without just cause;
f) except in the case of an offence under military law tried before a military tribunal, to the benefit of trial by jury where the maximum punishment for the offence is imprisonment for five years or a more severe punishment;
g) not to be found guilty on account of any act or omission unless, at the time of the act or omission, it constituted an offence under Canadian or international law or was criminal according to the general principles of law recognized by the community of nations;
h) if finally acquitted of the offence, not to be tried for it again and, if finally found guilty and punished for the offence, not to be tried or punished for it again; and
i) if found guilty of the offence and if the punishment for the offence has been varied between the time of commission and the time of sentencing, to the benefit of the lesser punishment.

Treatment or punishment
12. Everyone has the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment.

13. A witness who testifies in any proceedings has the right not to have any incriminating evidence so given used to incriminate that witness in any other proceedings, except in a prosecution for perjury or for the giving of contradictory evidence.

14. A party or witness in any proceedings who does not understand or speak the language in which the proceedings are conducted or who is deaf has the right to the assistance of an interpreter.

posted by SassHat at 12:08 AM on July 31, 2006

A similar question has been asked: What are my rights?
posted by Chuckles at 1:12 AM on July 31, 2006

I've often said in police matters you have no rights until a judge gives them to you. In other words you can be arrested, beaten, held, starved, etc. and until you or your lawyer can get before a judge and say 'hey this is wrong', or I'm not your guy', the system can continue to abuse you. It is only after the fact that you may be able to attain some just retribution for being wronged. But only if the judge says so...
posted by Gungho at 4:19 AM on July 31, 2006

A particularly Canadian right is that clause against "unreasonable search and seizure": all searches must have "reasonable grounds" in relation to the crime police are actively investigating. The full meaning of this right is still being determined by judgements presently.

Currently, this effectively means that searches and resulting seizures only apply to evidence of the crime being investigated; if police are searching for a weapon and find a pound of heroin, they are to pretend they never saw it.
posted by mek at 4:19 AM on July 31, 2006

If you're a pedestrian just walking along minding your own business and not giving the police any reason to believe you're involved in any crime, you don't have to identify yourself.
posted by orange swan at 6:26 AM on July 31, 2006

Currently, this effectively means that searches and resulting seizures only apply to evidence of the crime being investigated; if police are searching for a weapon and find a pound of heroin, they are to pretend they never saw it.

This is almost worth putting up with the tax rate. Where should I look for more information on this, mek?
posted by Kwantsar at 6:59 AM on July 31, 2006

Response by poster: How about photography? What if, say, I see the police doing something questionable, such as running a red light without flashers, or something of similar questionable legality, and I (visibly) pull out a camera and photograph them?

If or when they come over and tell me to delete the picture, is that required? What demands must I comply with, along these lines (this is only an example) and which ones may I disregard, and on what basis?

That's kind of the main thrust of my (admittedly somewhat vaguely-worded) question.
posted by ChrisR at 7:07 AM on July 31, 2006

If you are on public property you can photograph anything you want within reason (eg: taking pictures of women undressing in her bedroom with a 500mm+ lens on a public street would more than likely considered a no-no), there aren't any laws preventing it.

In Quebec it's a entirely different story, there everyone owns the rights to their image and you'll need to get permission from the person being photographed if you plan on publishing any photographs. There are some exceptions though, photographing large crowds, legitimate news reporting or if the photo serves the public good.
posted by squeak at 10:38 AM on July 31, 2006

Their websites are pretty unhelpful, but you could probably contact the Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre or the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to ask if they have pamphlets on your rights with the police or your rights as a photographer.
posted by Margalo Epps at 10:40 AM on July 31, 2006

Best answer: Manditory warning: I'm not a lawyer, but I am Canadian. Follow at your own caution.

I've tried to find more information about our rights w.r.t. photography, and didn't end up with much at all. I've even asked a friend who works in the media department of a popular television station, and he didn't know of any laws extending past the following first conclusion (public property). It seems there aren't many laws or regulations in existance.
I've discussed this with a fellow photographer. Our discussions resulted in the following conclusions:

You're free to take a photo of anything, such that the item is located on public property and the item doesn't have any reasonable expectation of privacy. You cannot take a photo of anything in private property, or if the subject is to be granted a reasonable amount of privacy. A person's house, and more importantly (in some cases) their car is considered private property, even if these locations are viewable from public property. You can see how this interpretation leaves a lot to be desired, however since there aren't any real 'photographer right' laws, this is the best we've got to go with. So squeak's example of a woman in her bedroom would in fact be illegal, as the woman is granted a reasonable expectation of privacy. However a man standing on a balcony could be considered legal... I'm sure lawyers could argue both sides of these examples, so you see how things are quite convoluted.

Nobody can demand that you destroy your possessions without a court order or other type of judgement. This includes photos on your memory card, continuing to the memory card itself. A police officer could strongly suggest you show him your photos, but as far as I can find he has no right to demand you to delete them or to delete them himself. You might want to look up personal property laws to extend them to photography, as the lack-of-photographer-laws leaves much to be desired.

In terms of taking a picture of a police officer, such that he's on public property, you're in the right; however this doesn't guarantee that a police officer won't intimidate you, etc. Of course, there must be laws against intimidation like this, but such is life.

Basically, there aren't any set-in-stones photographer laws that you can quote to defend yourself. And when you're getting into police-policing, you're entering a sticky territory. Following the theoretical situation of: you took an incriminating photograph of a police officer in a public area, the officer intimidated you into deleting the photo, you press charges, you are (as far as I know) in the right; however it may cost a lot of laywer fees, time, patience, and determination to sort out. So technically you'd be in the right, but we all know how society bends the rules from time to time.
posted by Meagan at 12:01 PM on July 31, 2006

and more importantly (in some cases) their car is considered private property, even if these locations are viewable from public property.

The Toronto Star once did a story about drivers using cellphones; to illustrate the story they printed a grid of photos taken at a Toronto intersection of people in their cars talking on cellphones. There was a minor uproar over the photos, but (as far as I know) no charges were laid, and the Star printed a rebuttal shortly thereafter saying they'd checked with their lawyers, and found that people driving in their cars did not have a reasonable expectation to privacy.

Sadly, I can't find this article on the intarweb. Perhaps someone with better Google-fu can find it.
posted by chrominance at 12:55 PM on July 31, 2006

Just to be cynical, you should consider the potential distance between your actual rights and what the people with the social sanction and weapons say you have at any given moment. The incident I suspect you're speaking of should never have happened according to the letter of the law but when men with guns and arrest power make a demand you're going to have to comply if you won't want to do a candle/Waco impression.

So you may want to spend as much time thinking about what happens after you're arrested as you do what your rights are.
posted by phearlez at 1:17 PM on July 31, 2006

Currently, this effectively means that searches and resulting seizures only apply to evidence of the crime being investigated; if police are searching for a weapon and find a pound of heroin, they are to pretend they never saw it.
This is not correct. In the United States, searches are subject to the "exclusionary principle," (see Mapp v. Ohio [1]) which holds that evidence obtained illegally (i.e. not on the search warrant) can't be used in court.

In Canada, we have s.24-2 of the Charter which says that evidence will only be excluded if "it is established that, having regard to all the circumstances, the admission of it in the proceedings would bring the administration of justice into disrepute." In other words, as long as it won't unduly embarrass the judge, all methods of evidence collection, legal or not, are fair game. The police may be disciplined for illegal evidence collection, but the defendant still gets nailed with it.
posted by ewiar at 2:59 PM on July 31, 2006

1st - Mek is just plain wrong.
2nd - ewiar is also wrong - "administration of justice into disrepute" has nothing to do with the embarrasment level of the judge, and evidence is routinely excluded if obtained in breach of a Charter right.
3rd - Section 8 of the Charter may protect you in the event what is unlawfully seized from you is attempted to be used against you in a criminal context, but as has been mentioned above, ultimately, the only thing preventing an officer from seizing something from you by force is that officer's adherence to the law, which is almost always pretty good in most locations in Canada, but which can never be counted on to be perfect.
posted by birdsquared at 3:50 PM on July 31, 2006

Sorry, that was an attempt at humour that apparently didn't translate well into pixels. Obviously a judge's relative embarrasment isn't the legal standard...
posted by ewiar at 6:23 PM on July 31, 2006

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