Bill C-309, sponsored by Conservative backbencher MP Blake Richards, was passed by the House of Commons on October 31, 2012. The Bill has yet to make it through the Senate. This Private Members Bill targets the wearing of a mask in an unlawful assembly. Bill C-309 “makes it illegal to wear a mask at an ‘unlawful protest’, a crime now punishable with a decade-long jail sentence.”
I leave the house with some trepidation today, November 21, 2012, a heavy, masklike scarf covering my nose and maintaining warm air for my lungs in their near-pneumonia state. I pray I will not inadvertently stumble across a riot or non-peaceful demonstration. The community in which I live has a wide range of people, some poor and left-of-centre. What if, tired of hanging around in the cold waiting for a pizza handout, or working for less than a living wage and fed up with talking to creditors, they decide to protest?
Are activists lurking in the alleyways? How will I know when a peaceful demonstration is deemed threatening by the powers-that-be? What constitutes a “mask” anyway? Would I, a relatively conservative, older Canadian be hauled off to jail as a security risk?
As I continue on to work, I muse that there could be other worrisome interpretations of my scarf.
With only my eyes showing, I might be mistaken for a religious devotee. This is risky these days. In Santa Monica, for example, people are battling over the nativity scene. Yes, folks, babies in mangers are really terrifying and should be stamped out—or boiled and eaten as Jonathan Swift recommended in the 1700’s. But I digress…
A few people do glance my way as I hurry to work, perhaps only supposing I am not very tough for an Albertan (actually a transplanted British Columbia banana belter). After all, it’s just -13 C (8.6 F) and snowing lightly. Arriving at work, I realize with relief that no one has mistaken me for a hockey rioter or disguised terrorist, but has more likely been responding to my eye makeup, which has run below my eyes to an alarming degree. (Perhaps those people who glanced at me thought I was a Calgary Stampeder supporter with eye black, or a semi-made-up Kiss fan fresh out of white paint).
Wondering if I should take a back route home tonight so as to escape detection as a potential troublemaker, I decide to check into Bill C-309 a little further. I learn that the Bill has “a ‘lawful excuse’ clause that would protect people who cover their faces for religious or cultural reasons.” There is no excuse for covering my face due to illness. You and I, my fellow Canucks, are at risk wearing anything maskish—for cold weather, a masquerade, carnival, Hallowe’en, hockey game, face painting, or disfigurement. As for Santa Claus, you better watch out or you could be in big trouble!
Only certain religious or cultural reasons will excuse us? Oh-oh! Hmm…does that mean I might have to convert to another religion, i.e. one with a face covering, to avoid penalization? Or maybe I could get out my wooden native mask. It’s a bit scary, though. Whose culture? Whose religion? Who decides?
It looks like I’m out of aces—boldly wearing my scarf across my face, I am clearly not of the right religion or culture to remain within the boundaries of the law if a demonstration erupts. This is kind of an unfortunate plight for a law-abiding, sixth-generation Canadian.