We need a G20 probe

Arrest record shows police were out of control in Toronto

G-8, G-20 - juin 2010 - manifestations et dérives policières

With more than 1,000 arrests at the G20 meeting in Toronto, most of which were unjustified since most were released without any charges laid, it's no wonder a growing number of voices are demanding a full public inquiry to look into this mess.
The sheer number of arbitrary arrests is astonishing enough, but it becomes downright surreal given that these arrests were made at the G20 in just a few days and were more than double the number made during the entire 1970 October Crisis when the Trudeau government suspended fundamental liberties by invoking the War Measures Act, giving way to more or less 500 mostly unwarranted arrests of intellectuals, poets, artists and university professors.
This request for a public inquiry is increasingly being heard in opinion pages in newspapers and by some journalists. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Amnesty International also want one. Yesterday, in Le Devoir, more than 40 law professors and lawyers from across Canada said the same thing.
They signed an open letter to federal Public Security Minister Vic Toews, noting arrests are justified in cases of violence, but the fact that nearly all those arrested have since been released with no accusations made against them indicates that these arrests weren't related to any displays of violence.
Which leaves one thing: Arrests were made for no other reason than to intimidate citizens and stifle their right to exercise their freedom of expression. Profoundly troubled by the events -and rightly so - this group of lawyers and professors also contend that the arrests are actually part of a tendency in Canada to criminalize dissent.
Which is where we get to the heart of the matter: What Canadians witnessed was what appeared to be an attempt at the G20 by the RCMP and the Toronto police force to curtail people's freedom to assemble and to express peacefully views divergent from the powers that be -including in front of the most powerful leaders in the world.
This is also what Steve Paikin, one of the most respected journalists in this country, who witnessed police brutality against a freelance contributor to Britain's Guardian newspaper, summarized in the Ottawa Citizen that: "democracy took a major step backward" in Toronto.
Testimony continues to come in from peaceful demonstrators who claim they were forbidden to speak to a lawyer on their arrest, which is a right in Canada. They tell of humiliating conditions of detention. Some Quebecers tell of being arrested when heard speaking French. Some female detainees also allege having been the object of sexual threats and innuendo by police officers.
In the National Post, a Revenue Canada employee who is an amputee told of being arrested while sitting in the "designated speech area," punched, kicked, and having his prosthetic yanked off by a policeman. He also said he had to share a cell with a man in a wheelchair who was forbidden access to a regular washroom and was left "soiling his pants."
Still, regardless of the scope of the allegations, the Harper government, which spent close to a billion dollars on security alone for the RCMP and the Toronto Police at the G20, rejects calls for a public inquiry.
So does Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, although this own government had issued a decree expanding the powers of the police forces in a manner so discreet that only police were aware of it.
Given the descriptions of what occurred at the G20, both Harper's and Mc-Guinty's "No" to an inquiry is in fact unacceptable.
And it is unacceptable for one very important reason: In a society that rests on democratic principles, representatives of the state, such as the police and government officials, must hold themselves, and be held up to, the highest standard of conduct and respect for the laws and fundamental liberties of citizens. In fact, they are the guardians of these laws and liberties.
When they fail to do so, and then refuse as well to investigate the matter fully, the end result is that the right to exercise democracy and freedom of expression by Canadian citizens, as well as basic government and police accountability sacrificed.

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