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Should it be a crime to cover your face during a riot?

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It may soon be a crime to cover your face with a mask or other means during a riot.

 Should wearing a mask during a riot be a crime? (Andrew Burton/Associated Press)Bill-309, proposed by Alberta Conservative MP Blake Richards, would provide for penalties of up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $5,000 for rioters who wear a mask or disguise.

The bill was introduced as a private member's bill in October 2011, but it reached the House justice committee on Tuesday.

"When trouble starts, people intent on criminal activity depend on being able to 'mask up' to conceal their faces with bandanas, balaclavas or other means to avoid being identified and being held accountable for their actions," Richards said in a statement when he introduced the bill.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson announced Sunday that the Conservative majority formally supports the legislation, meaning it is all but assured of becoming law.

Those who incite a riot wearing a mask "without lawful excuse" face an indictable offence with prison terms of up to five years. However, the bill doesn't define what a "lawful excuse" is.

There would also be a charge under the law for those "who participate in an unlawful assembly while wearing a mask or disguise to conceal identity."

Should it be a crime to cover your face during a riot? What should be defined as a "lawful excuse" to cover one's face in public? Let us know in the comments below.

(This survey is not scientific. Results are based on readers' responses.)

Tags: law, Politics, protest

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