Alberta Legislature Building First Amendment Audit Fail

Note: The video included within this post was shared with Nevada Cop Block via reader submission. If you have videos, stories, upcoming events/protests, or personal interactions with the police (and/or “justice” system) that you would like to share, send them to us and we will do everything we can to bring it to the attention of the world.

In addition, you can visit the Nevada Cop Block resources section for information and links to the rights of citizens when dealing with police, during which you should always be filming.

The video embedded below shows what is commonly known as a “First Amendment Audit” within the United States. This however took place in Canada so that title would obviously be a bit of a technicality, since their laws are of course not based on our Constitution. Therefore the Bill of Rights and specifically the First Amendment aren’t what outlines the rights the government is prohibited from violating. Instead, the Canadian Constitution includes a “Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” which is very similar to and effectively functions the same as the U.S. Bill of Rights.

Instead, the rights that are associated with the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution are listed as “Fundamental Freedoms” under Section 2 of the charter. Although there are undoubtedly differences between the United States and Canadian Constitutions and laws, the wording of the Bill of Rights’ First Amendment and Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms are almost identical in wording and content. Similarly, Canadian laws and legal precedents have established a “Freedom of Press” standard that is essentially the same as the U.S. version. This includes the ability to legally film in public.

So therefore, “Section 2/First Amendment audits” consist of going out and filming government buildings and other public property. Oftentimes, the police, security guards, government employees, and even members of the public don’t understand that Section 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, respectively, protect a citizen’s right to take photos and/or record video of anything that is within view of a public place.

This, obviously, is very much an example of that and what is commonly referred to as an “audit fail” among those who do them. The auditor, Donald Smith of “News Now Canada Independent Media,” was attempting to enter the Alberta Legislature Building in Edmonton, which is the provincial capital, while filming. At about 50 seconds into the video embedded below he is approached by an Alberta Sheriff’s Branch deputy.

Deputy M. Kim proceeded to tell him that he could not film within the legislature building if he was planning to post it to YouTube. Kim then further threatened to arrest Smith if he attempted to film within the building (he later amended that to “if I see it go on Youtube, you will be arrested”). The stated justification for this was a restriction within the policies of the legislative building against commercial photography. The very incorrect implication being that posting something on YouTube constitutes a commercial/professional use of media. Eventually, Deputy Kim stated that trespassing would be used to justify this arrest.

Later, after Smith requested to speak to a supervisor, Acting Sergeant McDonald arrived and backed up Deputy Kim’s assertions. Sergeant McDonald even went one step further and claimed that no photography at all was allowed within the legislature building, specifically stating that tourists were not allowed to film inside the building. That is very much not true as it states within the guidelines for use of the Alberta legislature grounds that “photography sessions of a personal nature” are permitted.  And while it’s true that those guidelines require approval to conduct commercial photography, posting a video on YouTube does not designate it as professional or commercial in nature. Obviously, many if not most of the videos posted to YouTube are amateur videos posted for personal reasons and not something intended for commercial use.

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