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Canada, law and public protest: history

Irina Ceric

Subject History
Social Movements » Collective Behaviour

Place Northern America » Canada

Period 2000 - present
1000 - 1999 » 1900-1999

Key-Topics rebellion, revolution, rights

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184649.2009.00298.x


Moments of protest and rebellion have always challenged systems of power and authority, but particularly since the rise of the liberal democratic state, laws and legal institutions have mediated the tensions and contradictions between individuals, social movements, and the existing order. In the Canadian context, the ongoing history of law and social protest has been shaped by the evolution of a legal framework inherited from England but continually altered by the demands of settlement and nation building, and more recently, by constitutional rights guarantees. While criminalization of dissent, particularly of street demonstrations and other forms of collective action, remains a key issue in studies of the relationship between law and protest, law has also become a tool of resistance in itself, either in conjunction with or instead of other forms of mobilization. Many of the provisions which still constrain political protest and assembly in Canada, such as riot, unlawful assembly, and breach of peace, first arose under English common law and, beginning in the nineteenth century, subsequently developed as public order offenses in an attempt to replace treason and seditious libel as the primary, and increasingly unpopular, political crimes committed. Some of these offenses can only be described as archaic. For example, it appears that the earliest recorded definition of an unlawful ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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