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Montreal police arrest 279 protesters

The Montreal Police [official website] on Friday arrested 279 protestors at an allegedly illegal demonstration aimed at protesting police tactics. The protesters were speaking out against Montreal's Municipal Bylaw P-6 [materials], which allows the police to declare illegal any demonstration where participants failed to provide government authorities a copy of the itinerary in advance. The police said that three people were arrested for assault [CBC report], and most of those arrested were processed and subsequently released. P-6 also prohibits protesters from wearing masks at demonstrations, and as a result police took the head of Anarchopanda [CBC Canada report], a costume panda that was a popular icon at student protests in Quebec [JURIST report] last year, as a possible exhibit to be used in court. The man who was inside the costume is a philosophy professor at Maisonneuve College [official website, in French] and received $1,274.00 in fines.

Canada has been dealing recently with some controversial constitutional and civil rights issues. In February, the country's high court ruled that restrictions on hate speech [JURIST report] do not violate the constitutional guarantees of free speech. Earlier that month, the high court upheld the country's ban on marijuana use [JURIST report], overturning a lower court ruling that the ban was unconstitutional because it hindered citizens' ability to obtain the drug for medical use. In January, the high court ruled [JURIST report] that common law couples do not have the same rights as married couples in a challenge to Quebec's Civil Code. In August, a federal judge ordered a judicial review [JURIST report] of the country's prison grievance system, stating that failure to address prisoners' complaints in a "fair and expeditious manner" violated the Corrections and Conditional Release Act [text, PDF].

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