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Why an independent review of G20 security is needed


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.

Statement July 7 after Toronto Police Services review announced

Are you ready to sign now?

Please follow this link to support Amnesty International’s call for an independent review of G20 security.

4 comments on “Why an independent review of G20 security is needed

  1. James, thank you for giving your strong voice to the civil rights issues that arise out of the law enforcement response to G20 protesters. I have been doing much the same. We really need citizens to check their normal “where there’s smoke there’s fire” reactions – their assumptions that the protesters must have all been troublemakers who brought whatever upon themselves. People need to stop and look, and look again.

    I grew up the son of a Judge with a deep respect for him and his work – I see law enforcement as an extension of our Justice system, which I think the best in the world. With all the good they do, police DO make mistakes – and this time, they made some doozies. I am hopping mad about it – I will not see MY CANADA be represented by police tactics like these. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is taking exactly the right tact. Heads should roll – the leadership that ordered police to do things which violated civil rights, constitutional law.

    Thanks for taking the time you have away from your business to speak out, again and again on this important issue. We must not let it rest until their is a properly constituted Federal Public Inquiry.

    • Thanks for your comments and support. I saw your post about how the G20 weekend reactivated your political involvement. I think it says something powerful that we have both been touched by these events despite being far from being anarchists or members of an unruly mobs that the “security” was subduing. We both believe in a Canada with a set of rights and freedoms enshrined in our Charter and a justice system with the integrity to work within that framework. The fact that we and many others like us are talking about these events a month later also makes a powerful statement and indicates that the G20 has been a turning point in the history of our country even though Prime Minister Harper may hope that by ignoring calls for an independent inquiry that Canadians will simply forget and move on.

      • James, almost all of those who were either there, who know someone who was there, or who did the research you clearly did were shocked that our police could be ordered to behave as they did toward our citizens.

        Two thirds of Canadians, and 70% of Torontonians (that 70% number came through yesterday) are upset at the protesters in Toronto and stand, unconcerned, behind the policing actions at the G20. If they are upset about anything, it’s the cost and the choice of Toronto as location. My hope is that the reason the large majority they have this perspective is that they simply have not bothered to inform themselves of exactly what happened, and have not thought carefully about what civil rights really are. I hope that it is a small minority of our population that really don’t care about maintaining civil rights in Canada – though I know they’re out there.

        No party in parliament or in the Ontario legislature is pressing the civil rights issues of the G20. The ‘Opposition’ is coming from citizens, and a very few backbenchers in either legislature. With the public so solidly unwilling to consider the possibility that law enforcement over-stepped its bounds, I think we only can have hope a lead plaintiff in the proposed class action suit will be found, and that the Courts will censure the police actions taken at the G20. I have no faith that the limited inquiry being held by Toronto Police Services will address the issues that need addressing.

        I think I have done what I can – I’ve tired out my Facebook friends and Twitter followers with continual posts passing on information about what happened, what it means, and what needs to be done about it. Twice I’ve written every MP and Ontario MPP, and all Toronto City Councillors. In my eyes, this battle for all intents and purposes, is over.

        My last symbolic act will be returning the Solicitor General’s Award for Crime Prevention I received in 1985, while a member of the Rotary Club. I have a young law student hunting up the contact information for all the other winners of this national award. Before I return mine, I’ll see if any other recipients would like to join me in doing this. In my eyes, the credibility of the Solicitor General (now Minister of Public Safety) has been tarnished by its refusal to punish or even censure the breaking of G20 protesters’ civil rights by police.

  2. I agree that the chances of the federal government calling the necessary independent inquiry needed into G20 security anytime soon are slim at best. But there are enough people asking enough questions that I’m confident that we’ll get answers that may yet make holding one a must.

    And rather than going away, I sense momentum. The signs include the announcement late this week of a review by the Independent Police Review Director
    and yesterday’s editorial in the Toronto Star that called for the inquiry we need: http://www.thestar.com/article/839178–no-substitutes-for-full-inquiry .

    In time we’ll get closer to the answers required than we are today.

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