Friday, March 10, 2006

Did you know...?

Did you know that religious services in Canada (including the Mass) are afforded special, legal protection? It’s true. It is illegal to impede a clergyman from attending to his duties or to disturb or interrupt a religious service. According to Section 176 of the Criminal Code of Canada:

176. (1) Every one who

(a) by threats or force, unlawfully obstructs or prevents or endeavours to obstruct or prevent a clergyman or minister from celebrating divine service or performing any other function in connection with his calling, or

(b) knowing that a clergyman or minister is about to perform, is on his way to perform or is returning from the performance of any of the duties or functions mentioned in paragraph (a)

(i) assaults or offers any violence to him, or
(ii) arrests him on a civil process, or under the pretence of executing a civil process,

is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.

(2) Every one who wilfully disturbs or interrupts an assemblage of persons met for religious worship or for a moral, social or benevolent purpose is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

(3) Every one who, at or near a meeting referred to in subsection (2), wilfully does anything that disturbs the order or solemnity of the meeting is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Furthermore, under Canada’s powers of arrest, anyone asked by an official in charge of the Church's property can arrest an offender found committing these offences using as much force as is required, following which the person is to be turned over to the police. I recall a local story of a man being pursued by store security for shoplifting, who ran into a Catholic church during Mass. Police arrived and waited out the Mass before arresting the man, for the very reason of not wanting to flout this section themselves.

Just thought I’d mention it in case these unsettled times result in unfortunate incidents in your church one day.

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