Ottawa Witness Group

Mandate and Purpose of Ottawa Witness Group

The Ottawa Witness Group is composed of members of our community from religious groups, trade unions and civil society, concerned that the right to dissent, currently being eroded, must be preserved. Witnesses regularly attend demonstrations in the Ottawa area, identified by clothing bearing the words, "Protect The Right To Protest." Witnesses receive training in observational techniques, and operate in pairs.

Our purpose is to defend public space for democratic dissent. Witnesses are independent of both demonstrators and police. We play one community role among many: police, bystanders and the media observe the demonstrators, the demonstrators themselves express dissent, and the Witnesses observe and record police response, monitoring adherence to standards of human rights in a democratic society. Witnesses do not interfere with either the police or the demonstrators.

Witnesses are accountable to the community. We record the times, actions and sequence of events during protests, and provide an accurate summary account, posted on the Witness website. We publicly defend our recommendations, based on our observations. We actively encourage dialogue, communication and the building of trust among all community stakeholders - social and political activists, police, elected officials, the media, Witnesses and the general public - through public meetings, workshops, internet discussion and research projects. In addition, we foster links with like-minded groups elsewhere to share information and establish best practices in carrying out our role.