The police have a duty to serve and protect all members of the public. In the event that anyone threatens you, harms you or you are in any danger, you can call the police for help. You should be aware of your rights and responsibilities when interacting with law enforcement. This section includes information about calling 911, interacting with the police, search warrants and safety tips for different scenarios.
Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that consists of unwanted comments, whistling, “cat-calling” and any other actions by strangers in public. Although there is no right way to deal with street harassment there are some ideas and strategies to consider. Remember to always assess your safety before making any decisions. If you are in this situation, you can decide to do any or all of the following:
Get to a safe place
Your safety and well-being is the first priority. If you are being harassed, do whatever you need to do to get out of that situation. This could be anything from going into a store and telling a worker, hopping in a cab or calling a friend or family member on your phone.
Assertively respond to the harasser(s) calmly, firmly, and without insults or personal attacks to let them know their actions are unwelcome and unacceptable.
Reporting is always an option. There are many ways you can report an individual. If the harasser(s) work for an identifiable organization or company, you can call them, and let them know that their employees are harassing people. If you are on public transportation, you can report them to a transit worker (bus driver, fare collector, etc.) You also have the option of reporting it to the police. Depending on the severity of the incident, you can report the incident by calling 911 or the non-emergency police line.
Although meeting people online can be dangerous, the reality is that the Internet and social media exist for us to connect with others. This can be a wonderful thing. If you are planning to meet up someone you met online in real life, there are a number of steps you can take to keep yourself safe. These include, but are not limited to
People online may not always be who they say they are. Make sure before planning to meet someone that you have carefully and critically examined all the information they have told you, and that this information checks out. Know that there are devices and apps that make things easy to fool others.
Example: Have you seen pictures of this person? Does this person have real friends on their profiles? Does their profile seem to be real? Have you spoken to them/seen them via telephone/webcam?, etc.
Plan the meeting
If you are going to meet someone from online, make sure you plan to do so in a public place. Never agree to meet someone for the first time at your house or their house. You should also plan all aspects of the meeting to ensure each piece will take place in public.
Example: Suggest to meet at a certain coffee shop, restaurant or movie theatre.
Have an exit strategy
It is important to have an exit strategy in the event that the meeting takes an uncomfortable or unsafe turn. Never get into a vehicle with the person you are meeting. In the event that you have to leave, you want to be able to do so quickly.
Example: Set up a safe zone where you can meet a friend or family member. If you have to leave, text a friend and have them call you, and pretend you have to leave sooner than expected.
Take a friend or let a friend/family member know where you will be and with whom
When meeting someone, it is important that you let a friend or family member know where you are going, with whom and at what time you will be expected to return. This way if something gets uncomfortable or unsafe, someone will know where you are. Taking a friend or an adult with you to meet this person is also a good idea. They don’t necessarily have to be involved in the meeting itself, but they can be close.
Example: Before going to meet someone text your friend their name, all the information you have about them and where you will be meeting them, bring a friend and have them wait at a nearby coffee shop.
In Canada you can call 911 if you have a life-threatening emergency. You should call 911 to get help and to report:
- a medical emergency
- a fire
- domestic violence
- a burglary or theft
- a car accident where someone has been injured
- suspicious activities
- an assault
In Canada you can call 911 if you have a life-threatening emergency. You should not call 911 to get help and to report:
- for information
- when the power is out
- to report something as broken
- as a prank
- paying tickets or fines
- for your pets
- non-emergency medical problems (for example, making a doctor’s appointment)
The police are allowed to stop you to ask you questions at any time if they have a reason to believe you have committed or are about to commit a crime. However, unless they are detaining you for investigation, arresting you or writing you a ticket, they are required to let you go if you do not wish to talk to them. If you are stopped by police, you have the right to
- ask if you are free to go
- ask why they are questioning you
- refuse unlawful searches (however, it is important that you do not try to physically resist)
- say you want to speak to a lawyer
There are some situations where you must comply and have to tell the police officer your name and address. If you are driving a car or are on a bicycle when the police stop you, you have to provide personal information. In any other scenario, you do not have to give your name and address. It is possible that you could be charged with something called “obstructing justice” if you do not give your information. You can also be charged if you give the police an incorrect name or address. After you give them your name and address, they might ask you more questions, but you have the right to say nothing more if you do not want to speak.
Although you can be stopped by police, you can’t be detained for just any reason. The police can only detain you if they have a reason to believe you are somehow connected to a recent or an ongoing crime. The police must tell you your rights immediately. They must also tell you why you are being detained. You have the right not to speak to them until you are given the chance to talk to a lawyer. This detention should be as short as possible, and if there isn’t a clear connection between you and the crime, the police officer could be detaining you arbitrarily, which means without a good reason. This type of detention is not allowed. If you are arrested, the police officer should tell you that you are under arrest, who they are and the reason you are being arrested. The police are also required to notify your parent(s)/guardian(s), even if you do not want them to do this. If the police officers do not take you to court within 24 hours, they are required to release you (however, charges might still be laid against you).
The police can search you in only a few situations, these are
If they have something called a search warrant. This lets the police search a place (for example, an apartment or a storage locker). They are also allowed to get warrants for DNA (for example, blood, hair or saliva samples).
If the police come to you with a warrant you can ask to see the warrant and check that
- The address on the warrant matches your address.
- The police are there at the time it says they are allowed to be.
- The warrant is signed by either a judge or a justice of the peace.
- The police only check the places where the items could actually be (for example, they can’t search for a stolen television inside your purse or backpack).
- If you are being detained for investigation, and they are doing something called a safety search. This happens when the police have reason to believe their own safety, your safety or the safety of others is at risk. This is usually a pat-down of your clothing to feel for weapons. The police also have the right to search through your bag and the belongings you have with you at the time.
- If you are being arrested, the police are allowed to search you and your property for safety reasons, and also to check for evidence related to reason for arrest. If the police search you in an unlawful way but find illegal things, you have the right to tell the judge that these items should not be used against you because they were found in illegal ways.
- If you consent to the search. If you give the police officers permission to search you they are allowed to. It is important to know that if you give permission, you can be charged for any illegal items they find on you.
You should not be strip searched by the police unless they have a strong enough reason to believe that it is needed. If they have reason to suspect you are hiding important evidence of a crime, hiding something dangerous or hiding drugs or weapons, you can be searched. If you are strip-searched, you cannot be asked to take your clothes off in front of someone of a different gender or in a public place. If they do not provide you with an officer of the same gender identity, you have the right to ask to be searched by someone of your gender identity. You can also be strip-searched in a school setting if there is a screen set up to protect you. There must be two people of the same gender in the room, and no one can search your body directly. If you are strip-searched, you have the right to ask to speak to a lawyer right away.
For more information on your rights with police and the searching of property, please see the “School” section of this guide on page 5.
It is important that you do not physically resist when you are being searched. If you do not want them to search you, you should tell them that you do not consent to them searching. If you physically resist you may be charged with resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer or you could be injured.
If you are unhappy with the help that the police have provided, or the outcome of the event, you have the right to explore second opinions. You can get second opinions from other police officers or support systems. If the situation did not have the outcome you wanted, do not be discouraged. You can always try again to get the justice and treatment you deserve.
In order to perform their duties as police officers, there are rules and responsibilities the police must follow. If a police officer assaults you or calls you names, you have the right to complain. You can complain about the Royal Canadian Mounted Police by visiting their website, or you can complain about your provincial police by filing a complaint with your province/territory’s Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner.