More than 1,100 people were arrested on the weekend of the G20 summit in Toronto. By comparison, 465 people were arrested during the FLQ crisis–a time when people were being killed and bombs were going off and the military needed to be called in. Of those arrested, more than 800 were released without any charges being laid. Why such a disparity?
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg since there are many other causes for concern that weekend that made me weep for my Canada.
An independepent review of G20 security is needed
If you agree that an independent review of G20 security is needed, please follow this link to Amnesty International’s call for one. More than 5,000 other Canadians have so far.
Not convinced yet? Read on.
Imagine that at a Kitchener Rangers game or Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony concert, a group of violent vandals decided to make a point by damaging property and participating in other clearly criminal acts–but for the most part those responsible get away.
Imagine going to the next game or the next concert and suspecting those involved in the violent vandalism last time are going to be there, everyone who is attending is arrested. Jeff Hicks of the Record is threatened with arrest because he feels that his duty as a journalist is to report on what is happening. But it’s all justified because it helps to catch the thugs and no one else is actually charged anyhow.
That’s a pretty good analogy for how I see one of the abuses of our democratic rights and freedoms that occurred during the G20 weekend in Toronto.
There’s no comparison you say? Then consider that no violence or vandalism was happening prior to the kettling of peaceful protestors prior to the two largest mass arrests that weekend. Respected journalist Steve Paikin’s account of the Eastern Avenue arrests late on Saturday night speaks for itself. Videos of the demonstration stopped on Sunday at Queen and Spadina also indicate no threat to property, people or law enforcement.
Yet everyone was arrested because some thugs carrying out illegal acts on Saturday afternoon MIGHT be among the group. People living their lives were also swept up in the arrests if they made the mistake of walking out of a restaurant at the wrong time for example. When did this become justifiable in Canada?
No one supports violence or vandals
Let’s get take the violent vandals off the table for discussion. We all agree those committing clearly criminal acts should be held responsible. Why they were allowed to occur for so long though is a question that needs a better answer. Had they not occurred or been dealt with quickly the story of the rest of the weekend would have played out differently.
The Miami Model was executed zealously
The fact of the matter is that security was clearly following an established plan know as the Miami Model where it was first employed as reported by Catherine Porter of the Toronto Star on June 26 before any of the violence or mass arrests occurred. What occurred followed that playbook.
Peter Braid is either naive, thought his audience was naive or was playing political games?
Don’t look at the feds, said Kitchener-Waterloo MP Peter Braid told a high powered group of community leaders at a meeting of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council on Friday, July 9. Look at the province and the Toronto Police for answers. We weren’t responsible for security on the streets.
Never mind that:
- Ward Elcot of the Privy Council was overall responsible for G8/G20 security (Globe & Mail, May 28)
- RCMP Chief Superintendent Alphonse MacNeil ran the secret secret summit command centre in Barrie (Globe & Mail, June 29)
- CSIS clearly had a role. Note: In his infamous CBC interview on June 21, Richard Fadden indicated the threat of terrorism at the G8/G20 was low.
Peter Braid doesn’t strike me as naive and I’m sure he has too much respect for those around the table (including Waterloo Region Police Services, the chair of the WRPS board and a member of John Milloy’s constituency office staff) to believe his audience was naive so I am forced to conclude he was simply playing politics in response to my question about if he supported Amnesty International’s call for an independent review. An unfortunately poor decision from my perspective but one that helps reinforce the need for a review because the federal government clearly had a role in what unfolded that weekend.
[Please note that while I am a member of the Waterloo Region Crime Prevention Council (WRCPC), the perspectives offered here are my own (as they are elsewhere on this blog) and I am not writing on behalf of the WRCPC. The meeting in July was open to the public as are all monthly meetings of the WRCPC.]
When is a mob a mob? Or how do I know if it’s ok to hold a large peaceful protest?
Kitchener Centre MP Stephen Woodworth (who could not attend the WRCPC meeting due to illness) says he prefers to wait for the processes in place to do their work such as the courts. He went on to say on Twitter that mobs need to be dealt with even if they are not unruly. But who decides then what is a mob? Would he stay at home if the NDP formed the Canadian government and made decisions that contradicted his strongly held anti-abortion convictions? Even if the government perceived them as a mob?
I haven’t even touched upon the law that wasn’t a law but was applied even more widely than even the misunderstood version of the law was thought to state. Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair admitted “with a smile” that he intentionally failed to clarify the law because he wanted to keep people out of the security zone. I’ve always liked Bill Blair and thought highly of his work; but how am I to trust what he says again?
The province has rightly taken a lot of flack for the security regulation that it quietly implemented to protect the security permeter. Despite what Mr. Braid alluded to though, nearly no one was arrested for breaking this regulation. The provincial cabinet does need to accept responsibility though for failing to clarify the regulation. Premier Dalton’s McGuinty‘s reponse to date has been inadequate. In fact, his office has been removing G20 related comments off of his Facebook page–a move that both contradicts the social nature of this media while throwing sand in the face of people already upset about how fragile their rights and freedoms proved to be.
Reviews already taking place
- Toronto Police Services to have an independent review
- Ontario Ombudsman conducting a review
- standard legal and complaint processes also will put what occurred under a microscope
So why should the federal government call an independent review?
- The sheer complexity of the security arrangements defies a piecemeal approach to investigating them.
- The large number of players involved with separate and overlapping responsibilities such as:
- federal government and its agencies such as RCMP and CSIS
- provincial government
- a large number of police forces–more than just Toronto police were involved
- City of Toronto
- decisions about why the location was chosen and how decisions were made to employ the security
- why was the Miami model chosen and followed so zealously
- why was a model that fits with our Canadian nature and values not created that could have served as an exaple to host cities that followed
- What happens the next time the world leaders come? How will we know what worked and didn’t work and how to learn from this experience if we don’t look at the big picture and how all the pieces supported it?
- How can we ensure our Charter Rights are as solid as they are enshrined rather than fragile as they now appear?
An article in today’s Toronto Star indicates how complex this issue is even in an era of complex issues and how everyone is running for cover and pointing fingers to deflect attention.
To his credit, former Deputy Premier of Ontario George Smitherman who is now a candidate for Mayor of Toronto recognizes that more is needed:
I believe an independent review that looks at the entirety of the situation is required - including the planning, coordination, budget and the exercise of authority. Each of these questions touch on multiple organizations and all three levels of government. Without the federal and provincial government’s full support and cooperation, this independent review cannot hope to get answers to all of the questions that need to be answered.
Are you ready to sign now?