Government backs legislation to arrest masked rioters

The federal government has endorsed a bill allowing police to arrest anyone taking part in a riot and wearing a face disguise. The bill introduced by Alberta Conservative MP Blake Richards proposes five years of imprisonment or a fine of up to $5,000 for wearing a mask or disguise during a riot, or an unlawful assembly. The maximum current penalty for joining a riot is a two-year prison term under the Criminal Code.

According to a news release from Justice Minister Rob Nicholson on Sunday, the federal government is throwing its support behind the bill, which virtually guarantees it would pass into law.

From the Canadian Press (via CBC):

The bill, Richards said in an interview, is designed to give police more power to prevent the kinds of riots that have caused so much damage, including the current student riots in Quebec, the Stanley Cup riot of last spring in Vancouver and the G20 protests in Toronto two years ago.

“Certainly I’ve heard of instances where it is legitimate that there might be reasons that someone needs to protest anonymously and this bill certainly still allows for that,” said the second-term MP from Airdre, Alta., representing the riding of Wild Rose.

“I think it strengthens the right for peaceful protest. It’s only when individuals engage in criminal activity or become violent where this law would apply.”