Thursday, June 20, 2024
Attendees took advantage of the Freedom Convoy to express many of their thoughts and emotions. Photo: Donna Laframboise
Media releaseNews

Freedom of speech has limits, Ottawa police remind demonstrators

Some activities are actually criminal

On January 15, 2024, the Ottawa Police Service (OPS) released a statement explaining that freedom of speech has limits.

The statement reads:

“The Ottawa Police Service (OPS) continues to work to ensure a safe environment for hundreds of demonstrations held in Ottawa each year. 

Cooperation between the Ottawa Police Service, By-law and Regulatory Services and some demonstration organizers has been constructive, but challenges persist.

We have seen some recent disruptions that have impacted public safety, property, and local businesses.

The Supreme Court’s recognition that freedom of expression has reasonable limits is crucial, emphasizing that threats of violence, property destruction, or other unlawful conduct are not protected. Section 1 of the Charter reiterates these limitations, ensuring a balance between rights and reasonable limits in a free and democratic society.

The OPS has actively engaged with some organizers, fostering awareness of relevant laws and expectations. Unfortunately, incidents involving disrespectful behaviour by certain individuals towards law enforcement, including the intentional use of loud sound reproduction devices in close proximity and physically interfering with officers, have been observed.

In collaboration with demonstration organizers, the Ottawa Police Service emphasizes the importance of peaceful protests, acknowledging democratic rights. However, continued disruptive activities by particular groups may lead to arrests and criminal charges under relevant Criminal Code sections.

Some pertinent Criminal Code sections include: 

  • Blocking or obstructing a highway (Section 423(1)(g))
  • Causing a disturbance (Section 175)
  • Common nuisance (Section 180)
  • Interfering with transportation facilities (Section 248)
  • Breach of the peace or imminent breach (Section 31)
  • Unlawful assembly (Section 63)
  • Mischief (Section 430)

For more information about the role of police at demonstrations, please visit”