Monday, July 29, 2013

"To serve and protect" ..... but not the Charter of Rights especially if you have a camera!

Good Day Readers:

Came across the article (below) from a couple weeks ago but at the time for whatever reasons decided not to reproduce it on CyberSmokeBlog. After watching the video of the Toronto streetcar shooting coupled with the Toronto Star piece perhaps that time has arrived.

It would appear, at least in some police jurisdictions, filming an incident even though in no way interferring with the process could put your Charter rights at serious risk. If all else fails, there's always the old standby the individual was obstructing justice and/or resisting arrest. It's perhaps worth noting in the Dziekanski case citizen photographer Paul Pritchard initially voluntarily surrendered his film but later had to threaten the RCMP with a lawsuit before it was begrudgingly returned no doubt after mutiple copies were made so counsel for the Mounties could prepare for the public inquiry that would surely follow. And while still on the subject, yesterday one of four constables involved in "the take down" was acquited of perjury. Humm .....

Perhaps author Kowalski is correct when he says, to paraphrase, a true measure of a society's freedom is how leaders react to embarrassing photographs.

In the case of the Toronto shooting after viewing the video you be the taxpayer financed Judge and Jury, "Was excessive and unnecessary force used?"

Clare L. Pieuk
The hazards of watching the watchers
By Devon Black
Saturday, July 16, 2013
In early June, a Toronto Star reporter was arrested and fined for doing his job. Alex Consiglio, the reporter, was present when an individual tried to force open the doors of a moving train. In the struggle that ensued, two transit officers were thrown onto the train tracks; one of those officers broke his ankle. Consiglio did what any reporter – and many members of the public – would do in the same situation. He snapped some pictures of what was going on. As a result, he was placed in a headlock, handcuffed, arrested, and fined 65 dollars.

This kind of photo-phobic law enforcement is, unfortunately, becoming something of a trend. In October of last year, 16 year-old Jakub Markiewicz took a couple of pictures of a man being arrested at a mall in Burnaby. Security guards demanded that he delete teh photos - difficult to do , on a camera what uses film - and when he refused they pushed him to hte ground, handcuffed him, searched his bag, and arrested him. Despite all the fuss, Markiewicz was never charged.

Earlier this year, Jennifer Pawluk was arrested for posting a photo of some anti-police street art on Instagram. It seems that sharing photos of graffiti now constitutes a crime. Most recently, Miles Howe – another journalist – was arrested at a protest in New Brunswick, where he was covering opposition by the Mi’kmaq community in Elsipogtog to nearby shale gas exploration. His camera was seized when he was arrested.

And let’s not forget the arrest of journalists back during the G20 protests in 2010, when photographers were tackled to the ground and arrested while, again, doing their jobs.

It seems that we could do with a refresher course on what kind of behaviour is and is not acceptable in a democracy. Taking photos or video in a public place? Totally fine. Preventing people from taking video or photos in public? Not so fine. Refer to section two of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and its illuminating guarantee of freedom of expression. How about recording police officers on the job? Also okay, so long as you’re not interfering with their ability to do their work. What if police try to take your camera or phone, force you to delete photos, or require you to unlock your device? Not okay, unless they’ve got a warrant or you’ve committed a crime. (Let’s all remember that recording police officers is not actually a criminal offence.)

"Freedom of expression, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure and freedom from unlawful detention are not privileges; they are the very foundation of our system of governance."

The principles these answers come from are so basic that we can – and do – teach them to schoolchildren. Freedom of expression, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and freedom from unlawful detention are not privileges; they are the very foundation of our system of governance. We ought to be concerned that those we task with upholding those laws seem to sometimes have trouble remembering them.

The reason these rights are foundational is that the protection of them is what allows our democracy to work. Freedom of expression protects our ability to talk freely with each other, to test out ideas about policy and ideology, and to share the latest news with each other, so that we’re all well-informed when we go to the voting box. Freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, and from unlawful detention, provide the most basic protections to our liberty: we know that we can go out and participate in society without being arbitrarily harassed or detained by our government. Moreover, these basic freedoms give us the ability to protect our own rights, and the rights of others.

When PEN Canada released a statement denouncing Consiglio’s arrest, they noted the importance of recording the police in keeping them accountable. When Robert Dziekanski was killed by RCMP tasers at the Vancouver airport, it was video footage from bystander Paul Pritchard that helped force the RCMP to eventually admit wrongdoing. One of the most oft-repeated complaints about modern Canadian democracy is that our citizens aren’t engaged. We’re disinterested and disillusioned with politics, and so we don’t bother showing up to the ballot box.

This idea has two fundamental problems: firstly, that disillusionment with the drama of politicians is the same as disillusionment with politics; and secondly, that voting is the only way to be politically engaged. These stories about people being arrested for recording the world around them show clearly that Canadians are willing and able to engage with politics – on our terms, and in our own way. Recording the police, for instance, is absolutely a political act: it’s an exercise in direct government accountability.

What better way to engage with government than to ensure, in person and recorded for posterity, that government actors are living up to their obligations? Arresting journalists and ordinary citizens for taking photos is an attempt to scare us into keeping quiet, leaving our phones in our pockets and our cameras in our bags. Instead, let’s keep our phones and cameras out – just in case the government does something worth recording.

Devon Black is studying law at the University of Victoria. In addition to writing for iPolitics, Devon has worked for the Canadian International Development Agency, Leadership Africa USA and RamRais & Partners. The views, opinions and positions expressed by all iPolitics columnists and contributors are the author’s alone. They do not inherently or expressly reflect the views, opinions and/or positions of iPolitics.
Freedom to photograph under threat
Police have no right to arrest anyone for the simple act of taking a picture - but they do 

By William Kowalski
Sunday, July 28, 2013
In video footage shot by Paul Pritchard, Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski is seen on the floor as airport police secure him in the arrivals area of the Vancouver airport. (October 14, 2007 - Paul Pritchard/Reuters)

In any society where the police, military or government hold inordinate power over the people, there are restrictions on the right to take and publish photographs, especially when those pictures prove embarrassing or incriminating to those in charge. One sure measure of a society’s freedom is how its leaders react to such images. If the photographers go unpunished, that society is probably a relatively free one. If they go to jail, it definitely isn’t.

The situation in Canada has reached the point where it needs to be said loudly and clearly: there is no law against public photography in Canada; no one here can ever be arrested for the simple act of making a picture or film, unless other laws are being broken in the process; and police officers who are in uniform and executing their duties in public have no reasonable expectation of privacy.

The following incidents illustrate why this point needs to be made.

In 2010, National Post photographers Brett Gundlock and Colin O’Connor were arrested during the Toronto G20 protests while attempting to photograph aggressive police crowd-dispersal tactics. They were never accused of anything except being “amongst violent people.”

In September of 2012, 16-year-old Jakub Markiewicz was detained by security guards and arrested by police after filming the violent takedown of a man by security guards at Metrotown shopping mall in Burnaby, B.C. Markiewicz was ordered by the guards to delete his footage, but since he was using a film camera, he could not comply. After Markiewicz took a second picture of arriving RCMP officers, he was physically attacked and restrained by security guards. At their request he was then handcuffed by police. Markiewicz was ultimately arrested for causing a disturbance. He was never officially charged.

On March 26, 2013, a Montreal student named Jennifer Pawluck, 20, an active protester with no criminal record, discovered some graffiti depicting police spokesman Ian Lafrenière with a bullet hole in his head. She took a picture of the image and posted it on Instagram. She was charged with uttering threats against Lafrenière.

On June 2, 2013, Star photographer Alex Consiglio was arrested at Union Station, put into a headlock, and charged with trespassing after he photographed police officers who were dealing with a disturbance on the tracks.

What do all these photographers have in common? None of them were breaking any laws at the time of their arrest.

The most glaring example of why public photography is important is the case of Robert Dziekanski, the Polish man who died after being Tasered by RCMP officers at the Vancouver airport in 2007. Dziekanski’s tasering and subsequent collapse was filmed by Paul Pritchard, who surrendered the video to police with the understanding that they would return it to him in 48 hours. When they did not do so, Pritchard initiated a lawsuit against them. The video was ultimately returned.

Partly as a result of its existence, the RCMP eventually admitted that they had misled the public in several statements about the Dziekanski incident. They issued an official apology for their actions and agreed to a financial settlement with Dziekanski’s mother. All four officers involved were formally accused of having lied in notes and statements about what happened that day. Without the existence of the Pritchard video, it is certain that the outcome of the investigation would have been different.

At PEN Canada, a non-partisan organization of writers that seeks to defend the right to self-expression at home and abroad, we are watching incidents like this closely. A recent blog post on the issue at received almost 6,000 hits within three days, highlighting the fact that many Canadians are also concerned. Canadians should know that they have the right to take pictures anywhere in public, as long as they are not breaking any other laws. At no time can anyone be arrested for the simple act of taking a picture.

We don’t recommend aggressively photographing police officers just because you can. We urge restraint, decorum and good judgment. But we also urge everyone to remember that a well-photographed society, which is what we have become whether we like it or not, has the potential to be a good thing, not just an Orwellian nightmare.

William Kowalski is a member of the PEN Canada National Affairs Committee.


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