Know Your Rights: How To Film Police Safely And Legally In Canada

Al Donato
Videos of police violence against Black citizens shared online have fuelled public unrest around the world.

The unjust deaths of Black people like George Floyd have galvanized protests against police brutality globally, with footage of the police officers involved figuring heavily into public anger and investigations that lead to arrests

But recording the cops can become complicated, both from practical and legal standpoints: Depending on what is and isn’t in front of the lens, a video may lack what’s needed to hold wrongdoing accountable in a courtroom. During tense encounters, police officers have a history of intimidating members of the public collecting video evidence and demanding they stop, lawyer Karen Selick noted in an Ottawa Citizen editorial.

This is true even for those whose jobs are to cover events as they unfold, as having a press pass doesn’t necessarily make a difference in how police treat reporters. New York City watchdog group The Committee To Protect Journalists lists over 300 violations of press freedom during recent U.S. protests, which include examples of police assaulting and threatening members of the media.

Watch: HuffPost reporter Christopher Mathias details police arrest at U.S. protest. Story continues below.

With peaceful anti-racism protests ramping up in many provinces, what should Canadians know if they see law enforcement using excessive force and want to record them doing so? HuffPost Canada spoke to media lawyer Peter Jacobsen, who serves as a board member for the Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, which recently called on the Trudeau government to condemn police attacks on American media. Jacobsen shared lawful ways to record police encounters while staying safe. 

Yes, it’s legal to record police officers in Canada

There is no law prohibiting taking video of uniformed police and, in fact, Pen Canada states that officers who prevent people from recording them are violating charter rights.

As long as you aren’t interfering with a police officer’s duties, you’re within your rights to film or take photos, Jacobsen...

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