Thank you for agreeing to serve as a Witness
This manual will give you a clear sense of your role during the G8 protests
in Ottawa and provide information about protestors’ rights, safety at demonstrations,
and resources you will be able to access.
During the demonstrations against the policies of the G-8, we will be present as witnesses. We are from religious groups, trade unions, civil society and the community. Our concern is to protect the right to protest and dissent.
We will be there to bear witness and to protect human rights. We seek to protect demonstrators by witnessing and reporting on actions of the police and monitoring their adherence to the standards of human rights in a democratic society. There will be many others who will be watching the demonstrators. We hope to even the odds.
Team members in identifiable T-shirts will record the times, actions and sequence of events and provide an accurate summary account to corporate, alternative and independent media.
Roles of Witnesses
1) PROTECT the rights of protestors by being present at events
2) WATCH police, their behaviour, mood and actions
3) RECORD the actions of police and the timing of key events
4) REPORT to other Witness teams and Base Station.
Roles Witnesses will NOT play
1) Witnesses are not Accompaniers - we are not there to chaperone or
police the protestors
2) Witnesses will not intervene in any way in the actions of police or protestors.
3) Cameras will be used only to record movements and actions of police.
4) Witnesses will not participate in actions - even in chanting. Our role is to observe only.
Protecting Protestors’ Rights
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.
Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of
c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
d) freedom of association.
1. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.
2. Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.
3. Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.
4. Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and, in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability or sexual orientation
The law impacts us every day. There are communities and individuals that face harassment and discrimination on a daily basis in the form of police brutality, and criminalization. It is important to think of legal rights not only in a protest situation but everyday. The criminialization of dissent is a way that the law is used to instill fear in individuals and to decrease participation.
Witnesses have the same rights as any demonstrator - but not more. In the case of mass arrests, we are just as liable to be arrested as demonstrators. Our notes can be confiscated, as well as our cameras and film. Nevertheless, it must be noted that if there are accusations of illegal assembly, the observer may be able to prove that she did not belong to the common goal of the demonstration.
Witnesses - especially those with cameras or video equipment - should familiarize themselves with the basics on search and seizure law. If the police ask about your video equipment and why you’re filming, it is up to you to decide whether and how to answer, but do not lie. Do not consent to any search.
It is possible that your footage will be seized and/or viewed however. Seized footage can and will be passed on to Crown Attorneys (the prosecutors), who should in turn disclose it to defence lawyers. Whether/when you get seized items back (including equipment) will depend on a number of factors, and will most likely require the assistance of a lawyer.
You have the right to film or take pictures in public areas – there is no general right to privacy in Canadian law. There are restrictions on selling the resulting images, without the consent of the people pictured. If you are using a tape recorder or video camera, by law (in some places) you must give people notice that you are recording them, however having the device in plain view is notice enough. In order to keep your notes, tapes, and film safe from the elements and from overzealous police, you can periodically mail them to yourself.
You have the right to film police, as long as you do not interfere with the officers’ activities by getting in the way. While the corporate media worker is likely free from the risk of arrest, Witnesses and indymedia may be targeted – work together and support each other to approach these issues.
Give thought to the potential of protecting protestors by showing the police your camera, and on the other hand, the discretion and exit space needed to protect your photos from seizure.
Legal Tips for Protestors
IDENTIFICATION: To Identify or Not?
We do not have to carry ID in Canada or identify ourselves to police with three exceptions:
1. If you are a driver of a motor vehicle, you will likely have
to show your license if you are pulled over
2. If you go to a place where minors are not allowed, you can be asked to show ID proving your age
3. If you get a ticket for a provincial offence (e.g. a by-law infraction) the police must be satisfied of your
identity to issue a ticket. They can ask you for ID and refusal can lead to arrest.
DETENTION: Should I stay or should I go now?
Generally, there is no obligation to speak to police or answer their questions. You can REMAIN SILENT. If you do not want to speak with an officer, you may ask "Am I free to go"? If the answer is yes, you can walk away. If the answer is no, you are being detained. The police must have some reasonable cause to suspect you have done something criminal in order to detain you, but in practice, this may never be ascertained unless you are charged and go to trial. The police can detain you if you are going to be arrested.
SEARCH AND SEIZURE
We have the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure. The police are not supposed to search unless:
1. You have been arrested
2. Individuals and cars can be searched if the police have reasonable grounds to believe that you are in possession
of illegal drugs and weapons; and it is impractical to get a search warrant
3. Private property can be searched without a warrant if the police have reason to believe that a crime is in progress,
or if they are in "hot pursuit" of a fleeing suspect or escapee.
Protestors do not have to consent to a search If you are being searched anyway, keep repeating "I do not consent to this search", but do not physically interfere with the search. Ask for the officers badge numbers and names.
The police can lawfully arrest a protestor if:
1. There is a warrant for their arrest
2. The police have reasonable grounds to believe they have committed an offence
3. The police find them committing an offence
Upon Arrest: Protestors are supposed to have to right to:
1. Be informed about why you are being arrested and what,
if any, offence you are being charged with
2. A lawyer of their choice
3. Remain silent - say that you are going to remain silent and would like to speak with a lawyer. Don't answer any
questions or sign anything until you have spoken with a lawyer
Knowing what type of demonstration you will be observing (mass permitted rally, small direct action, etc.) will help you prepare yourself appropriately. If you are unfamiliar with the area where you'll be observing, spend some time learning key street names and landmarks as well as orienting yourself by compass directions.
At the Event
Witnesses will travel in teams of two or four, with a cluster of teams at each event. Before the event, the teams will gather and discuss strategy for the event - how to distribute the teams, best ways to communicate, and so on. During the event, Witnesses will focus their attention on general environment and the actions of police - numbers, mood, location of public order unit, soft vs. hard tact, changes in mobilization. Remember that your focus is on police response, not the events of the protest.
A few things to keep in mind:
Remain Calm, even if things are getting wild around you.
Resist the temptation to get involved. You are there to observe and record. Do not intervene in any way while wearing your witness t-shirt.
Do not speak directly with police (except, perhaps, to get their badge numbers, as long as you do not interfere with an arrest). If witnesses seem “chummy” with police, our credibility as independent observers may be compromised.
We’re here as independent witnesses to monitor police behaviour. We want to protect protestors’ right to dissent and hold the police accountable for their actions. Our media spokesperson will be making statements about what we saw at the end of the day. I’m afraid I can’t comment any further than that.
If they press you, just say politely that you need to watch what is going on and you don’t have time for an interview. Then walk away.
Some medical tips
Watch for sunstroke, heat exhaustion, sunburn. Designate a person to carry first aid supplies. Wear comfortable shoes, a hat and water-based sunscreen, and bring lots of water. Do not wear contact lenses or use tampons - as pepper spray / tear gas can get trapped and cause damage. Avoid oil-based sunscreens, lip balm, lotions that react to gas. Make sure you’ve eaten and are well rested. Keep an eye on your team members and ensure everyone is OK at all times. Partners must travel together at all times. Hold hands or link arms if you feel intimidated or shaken. WALK, DON’T RUN.
• HC - crowd-dispersing smoke: This white smoke is harmless and non-toxic,
but is used for its psychological effect.
• CN - standard tear gas: This gas is easily identifiable by its apple-like odour. It can cause a burning sensation in
the eyes and skin, as well as irritation of the mucous membranes.
• CS Gas - This gas is ten times stronger than standard tear gas and has the same effects. It has a very strong
pepper smell and can cause nausea and vomiting.
What Should You Do?
• Don’t panic. Effects of the gas will wear off in 10 to 15 minutes;
panicking will only make it worse.
• Go to a well-ventilated area, facing the wind with your eyes open. Don’t rub your eyes.
• Rinse your eyes, face and any parts of your body that were exposed to the gas with water. Adding a little baking
soda will improve the effectiveness of the water.
If you are pepper sprayed
• DON’T rub your eyes
• Thoroughly rinse the affected area with water
• DON’T PANIC! The burning sensation will wear off in time.
What to Bring
- this manual and your witness t-shirt
- disposable cameras (waterproof “sport” versions)
- cell phone (make sure Base Station has the number). If you have access to Walkie Talkies or radios that we can
borrow for the events, please let us know. We’d like to arrange a radio for each team.
- steno pad, notebook or small clipboard with plenty of paper, and waterproof pens
- rain gear and sun protection (hat, water-based sunscreen)
- water (for drinking and for washing eyes if tear gas or pepper spray are used)
- bandana soaked in cider vinegar or lemon juice, or gas mask (keep in mind that gas masks are confiscated at
- water in a squirt bottle to flush eyes
- Legal Support Ottawa or a lawyer's phone number. Write it in permanent marker somewhere on your body even if
you think you have it memorized.
- if you bring a camera, video camera or tape recorder, bring extra batteries and tapes
- If you are taking medication or use medical equipment, bring it with you. Any medication should be clearly
labelled with a pharmacy label.
- Wear loose, comfortable clothes and bring layers in case of weather changes.
- Get lots of rest and drink lots of water before the demonstration.
Witness familiarity with Ottawa Police Service policies may help you notice and name actions that contravene those policies. The extracts below may be pertinent. Bolding added for this manual.
Ottawa Police Service Draft Protests and Demonstrations Policy
The Ottawa Police Service attends protests and demonstrations when there is a breach of the peace, a violation of provincial and/or federal law, or when there is a strong suspicion that such a breach or violation may occur. Members of the OPS remain neutral and take action only after the situation has been carefully assessed.
Public Order Unit
1. Citizens have the legal right to demonstrate peacefully, however they are not entitled to infringe on the rights of
land owners in the lawful use and enjoyment of their property.
2. When assigned to the scene of a protest or demonstration, members shall:
a. become familiar with the circumstances surrounding the incident
b. prevent any breach of the peace
c. ensure persons and vehicles have access to the premises concerned and are not intimidated or interfered with
d. maintain a position of impartiality in dealing with all parties involved
B. Patrol Supervisor
1. Upon receiving notification of a protest or demonstration where there is a breach of the peace, violation of
provincial and/or federal law or when there is strong suspicion that such a breach or violation may occur, the
a. proceed to the scene, and assess the situation
b. advise the Platoon S/Sgt.
c. detail a sufficient number of police officers to the scene
d. emphasize to personnel assigned the need to act in an impartial manner
2. Upon receiving information that a potentially violent protest or demonstration is to take place,
the Supervisor shall;
a. arrange to have additional personnel on standby in the vicinity of the protest or demonstration, but out of view
b. consider the use of the Public Order Unit
Ottawa Police Service Public Order Unit Policy
The Ottawa Police Service has a Public Order Unit which pro-actively manages crowd situations at various levels of order, through interaction with crowd participants. The Unit utilizes the minimum amount of force required when carrying out these duties.
Public Order Unit - a group of approximately fifty members who have been identified and trained to perform a variety of specific job functions outlined in this policy
Hard Tact - situations involving crowd management where the civilians involved are becoming progressively more hostile /threatening and an escalated response by the Public Order Unit is warranted. This response involves a number of equipment /uniform changes to facilitate this response
Soft Tact - crowd management where the civilian involved are relatively peaceful and the need to resort to an escalated response (i.e. Hard Tact) is not warranted
Incident Commander - the officer who has overall control of the situation, responsible for co-ordinating all aspects of the police response
Forensic Sweep - a systematic search of an area for any evidence covering an extended area
2. The Public Order Unit will respond to incidents of the following nature;
a. crowd management
b. organized searches
d. outer-perimeter duties
e. forensic sweeps
3. Crowd Management details could entail the following;
a. in anticipation of a crowd of protesters gathering
d. as a proactive method of order maintenance, by making informal contact with members of a crowd to:
• reduce crowd agitation
• determine the temperament of a crowd
• impart a psychological impact on a crowd
• isolate or passively disperse a crowd
6. To activate the Public Order Unit, the requestor shall notify
the Duty Inspector of the;
a. nature of the incident, including;
• size of the crowd
• behaviour of the crowd
• precipitating event, if known
• any other relevant information
Roles & Responsibilities
Public Order Unit members shall;
e. when responding to a crowd management situation, initial response should be Soft Tact
h. during a forensic sweep
• note anything of an evidentiary nature discovered and flag it for follow-up inspection by Identification Section.
• submit a report to Identification Section and Investigative Services
i if assigned outer perimeter, crime scene duties, or traffic control at the staging area, record the names and times
of all persons entering /leaving the staging area
B. Public Order Unit Supervisor
The Public Order Unit Supervisor shall;
a. take direction from the Incident Commander who has overall command of the situation
Ottawa Police Services Canine Unit Policy
1. The Canine Unit shall be responsible to provide support to all Divisions of the Ottawa Police Service in the
f. assisting in crowd control when circumstances warrant
2. . . . The decision to activate an off duty canine team can
be made by Sergeant or above.
3. The ultimate decision to utilize a canine rests with the handler.
5. Canine Teams shall be accompanied by a backup officer in all situations.
6. In high risk situations Canine Teams shall be accompanied by members of the Tactical Team.
7. All tracking and building searches shall be conducted on the lead.
8. Attack aggression by a canine shall be utilized only in extreme circumstances.
1. The Canine Handler shall:
g. evaluate the hazards involved in canine operations and take appropriate measures to increase the safety factor
for all concerned,
h. ensure that all tracking and searches are conducted on the lead
3. When a suspect is injured by a canine or a member of the public
is accidentally injured by a canine;
a. advise that they seek prompt medical attention
b. notify the arresting officer and Supervisor
c. submit a General Occurrence Report to your Supervisor detailing all of the circumstances surrounding the
injury and the nature of the injury
d. complete a Use of Force report in the case of all dog bites
4. In regards to Crowd Control;
a. canine will be used only in a defensive support for crowd control and will not normally be released in a crowd
b. a minimum of two canine teams shall be activated when being utilized for crowd control
c. the decision to deploy the canine unit shall be that of the Incident Commander
d. once the decision has been made to deploy a canine team in support of the Public Order Unit the handler has
sole authority how to utilize his/her canine
e. when the canine unit is deployed the handler and the canine will deploy in full crowd control equipment
f. when not deployed in support of the Public Order Unit at a demonstration the canine team shall remain in the
canine vehicle in the assembly area but away from the crowd
B. Unit Coordinator/Supervisor
The Canine Coordinator/Supervisor shall;
k. offer reasonable assistance to anyone bitten by a police dog and encourage them to receive medical attention
regardless of injuries
l. review all reports where a police service dog has bitten anyone and forward all reports to the Divisional
Commander for review
m. forward all reported incidents of canine dog bites to the Regional Health Unit, for review and follow up as per
We’re here as independent witnesses to monitor police behaviour.
We want to protect protestors’ right to dissent and hold the police accountable
for their actions. Our media spokesperson will be making statements
about what we saw at the end of the day. I’m afraid I can’t comment
any further than that.
All Witnesses are required to meet to debrief
at the agreed on time and place,
at the end of each day.
This manual prepared for the Ottawa Witness Group, June 2002,
in preparation for the G8 protests in Ottawa
If you have questions after reading this, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org