Know Your Rights

Dealing with the Police
Filing Complaints Against the Police

We have to rely on ourselves to know our rights and have them respected. The police systematically abuse their power, particularly when confronting unconventional individuals: the poor, youth and anyone questioning authority. The following information is not legal advice; it is based on on Canadian laws as well as on the rules and regulations applying to police forces in Quebec.

Dealing with the Police 

Identifying Yourself:

Your identity is your own. You are under no obligation to identify yourself to a police officer, except in the following cases:

  • If you are under arrest;
  • If you are driving a motor vehicle; you must show your drivers license as well as the vehicle registrations (your passengers don’t have to identify themselves).
  • If you are under 18 and found in a bar or movie theatre (to prove that you are 18 or older)
  • If you are found at night in a public place (park, street, etc). According to some municipal by-laws, people who refuse to identify themselves can be charged with vagrancy.

Other than these exceptions, you are never obliged to speak to the police. If the police ask you to identify yourself or come with them, ask them, “Am I under arrest?” If you’re not you don’t have to identify yourself or follow them.However, the police have to identify themselves. According to their own code of conduct, police officers are required to identify themselves and/or wear badges with their names and ID numbers on them.Asserting your rights might provoke two kings of reaction from the cop:

  • Surprise: The cops are not used to dealing with people who are aware of their rights, so they may decide to let you go without further questioning.
  • Frustration: The police may feel they are being provoked and take advantage of the situation to put you under arrest.

For more information on being arrested, interrogations, searches and demonstrations check out “Guess What! We’ve Got Rights”.–From COBP’s, Guess What? We’ve Got Rights!

Documenting your experiences

*This is not legal advice!*

1) Personal documentation vs public testimonials

It can be really important to document everything that happened to you and your comrades as soon as possible, while the memory is still fresh. This differs from public testimonies you might be publishing. When going public about an experience, it is important to be more general, and to be sure to either incriminate anyone  or break someone else’s confidentiality.

2) Why document:
Detailed documentation can be hard and scary, but it will help you when defending yourself against charges, being a witness for someone else, or pursing a civil suit. These notes will generally not be used in court themselves. Instead they will be for you to refresh your memory later, and make sure you have all the evidence in  one place.

3) Who should document:
You should do a personal documentation if you:

  • were criminally charged,
  • witnessed police harassment or violence,
  • were targeted by police harassment or violence on the streets,
  • during arrest (with or without cause),
  • detainment and/or release.

4) How to document:
These notes should be made on your own, based on your own memory. Have support of friends nearby as this process could be triggering.

  • Date the document and on the top of each page write “Confidential: for my lawyers eyes only.” This should help protect your notes from being used against you or someone else.
  • For most people, it’s easiest to go chronologically. Be as precise as possible regarding dates, times, places, etc. Include badge numbers, witnesses and whatever you can remember.
  • Contact any witnesses, including legal observers and ask them to do the same thing, but be sure you don’t collaborate with witnesses about what happened. It’s important that your experience is not considered “tainted” by another’s experience or suggestions.
  • Be sure to keep copies of any video/audio/photo evidence with dates, times and locations, and ask any witnesses with such evidence to do the same. Again, mark it as “for my lawyers eyes only” if it is footage that you don’t want made public
  • If possible, include the impact it had on you. If you are injured or traumatized, this is important to document, along with medical records, counselling appointments, time off from work, etc. If you were physically injured or traumatized by what happened to you, or feel unsure about the effects of any trauma you might have experienced:

– see a doctor right away if you haven’t yet;

– take photographs or videos of any visible injuries; and

– write down a list and description of the physical and mental injuries you sustained.

5) What to do with this:
Keep at least one hard copy only in a safe place to show only to your legal counsel. If you want support in getting a lawyer, or to find out about a class action suit the resources listed above.

  • DO NOT send us details of your case, of your actions or others’ actions, and
  • DO NOT send your personal documentation.

—CLAC 2010 Comité légal

Filing Complaints Against the Police

There are a number of Montreal-based organizations who are familiar with processes around legal defense involving demonstrations and filing complaints against the Montreal police force. Some of these include:

The CLAC: The Convergence des luttes anticapitalistes (The Anti-Capitalist Convergence).

COBP: Montreal’s Collective Opposed to Police Brutality is a group whose mandate is not only to denounce police brutality but also to support those affected by it, both by doing workshops and producing material related to your rights vis-à-vis the police, but also by providing legal support when they are able. The COBP can be reached at cobp@hotmail.com, or by phone at 514 395 9691.

ASSE Legal team: you can reach the ad hoc legal committee of Quebec’s largest student union, and the organizers of Thursday’s demonstration, at legal@asse-solidarite.qc.ca

Legal Aid Resources:

Community Legal Aid

  • 425, de Maisonneuve O, Bureau 600
  • 514-864-2111

CSU Legal Information Clinic

  • Room H-731, 1455 de Maisonneuve O
  • You must book an appointment to speak with a volunteer by emailinglegalclinic@csu.qc.ca or by calling 514-848-7474, x.7375

Head & Hands Legal Clinic:

  • If you are between the ages of 12 and 25 and have questions concerning your rights and responsibilities, our Legal Coordinator can help you make sense of a variety of legal related issues. They ask for a minimun donation of $20
  • The Clinic runs Monday-Thursday from 10am-5pm
  • 5833 Sherbrooke O
  • 514-481-0277
  • legal@headandhands.ca

Student Advocacy Office at McGill

  • The mandate of the Student Advocacy Office is to represent students in any and all disputes between the University and students.  If there is a case, we will assess, and help seek redress in the most appropriate manner.  If there are any questions or possible cases, please email – advocacy.law@mcgill.ca.
  • Or call 514-398-6792 and a volunteer will call you back withing 48 hours.

The Mile End Legal Clinic

  • 5276 St-Laurent
  • 514-507-3054