Thursday, July 8, 2010

Letter to my MP RE: G20

The first draft of my letter I'm writing to my MP. If anyone sees any problems please email me/comment. I'm going to send it tomorrow after I re-read it and edit it with a fresh set of eyes. Obviously this is fully open and anyone can use this in whole or in part.


I am writing to express my utmost concern over the actions of my government on both the federal and provincial level as well as the policing action that occurred during the G20 summit in Toronto. As you are no doubt aware it was the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Over 1000 people were arrested and less than 25 percent of them were charged with any crime other than “breach of the peace”. This demands an inquiry by a neutral and respected third-party that does not hold conflicts of interest in the situation. The Conservative federal government, the provincial Liberals as well as the various police forces involved do not meet that requirement. The recent announcement of a public review is a nice first step but still grossly inadequate.

I will start by saying this is not a partisan letter and I do not want a partisan response. Both major parties had a role in this disaster. Premier McGuinty and his government secretly met and updated a regulation, The Public Works Protection Act, which restricted movement and curtailed numerous charter rights inside of the security fence. I find this unusual and puzzling as I was under the impression that there was already legislation in place allowing the government to restrict movement around an area when foreign dignitaries were present.

What I find extremely troubling was the manner it was used. The police chief of Toronto Mr. Bill Blair knew that it only applied to the inside of the fence yet allowed the public to believe it was 5 metres outside of the fence. He purposely deceived the public and is on record admitting it at a news conference in the name of public safety.

What I find absolutely appalling is that the act was never actually needed. The police were given free-reign to search anyone in a multi-block radius away from the security fence at random. This is a gross violation of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms that I do not take lightly. Even if you believe that these powers were necessary it is the government’s role to pass legislation so that you are held accountable to your constituents. The police have absolutely no right to systemically violate our Constitution in the name of public safety. Unfortunately that was not the worst of the violations we incurred on our civil liberties.

After the brief period of property damage that occurred on Saturday, something that I obviously condemn, it appears a more important Charter right was suspended. Hundreds of peaceful protesters and bystanders were deprived of their freedom without any justified reason. Violence elsewhere in a city does not give the police unchecked power to detain those in that city. I will not get into the numerous cases but surrounding a protest and arresting everyone in order to possibly find several vandals is abhorrent. It is suppressing dissent in one of its purest forms.

Protesting became de facto illegal on Saturday evening and Sunday. If you were in a peaceful protest you were sometimes given a choice to disperse or to be arrested. Sometimes you weren’t given that choice, you were simply arrested. This wasn’t an isolated incident. It was a systemic decision by assumedly police leadership as it would be illegal for the government to give specific orders. This is another flagrant violation of our Charter Rights. The federal government can declare wartime powers to detain without charges as well as search and seize property. The police cannot for a very good reason. They are not elected officials and therefore not accountable to the public at large. Most of their investigations are done by the people involved with issuing these orders on the G20 weekend. This brings me to why a fully independent public inquiry is needed.

Bill Blair, the Toronto Chief of Police, has been caught lying and deceiving the public on numerous occasions. This is not a statement of opinion. It is fact. The weapons that his forces showcased included very few actual weapons. Some of the most dangerous items that he had were: flaming arrows, a crossbow, a chainsaw, medieval armour, and unknown liquids. The armour and arrows were a costume by a fantasy role player that was taken from him by the police well outside of the G20 area and the crossbow and chainsaw were utterly unrelated as well. The police chief and his staff were incompetent, illiterate or deceitful. None of which make him suitable to be a part of an inquiry other than as a witness to be cross-examined. He also admitted, as I mentioned earlier, to purposefully misleading the public for the sake of public safety in regards to the Public Works and Protection Act.

This is a small snippet of easily available information. There is much more out there to strengthen my argument but as it stands I think the conclusion is clear. We cannot have an investigation of police conduct undertaken by this man and expect the results to be credible. How can you possibly expect the public to trust him to be impartial after this?

The response I see repeatedly from various levels of government is that there are avenues available to those who feel they were mistreated by police. I find this problematic in a few ways. The systems in place are not for gross violations of civil liberties. Quashing dissent by eliminating peaceful protests isn’t something that one person can argue very well. No one person has to be beaten or arrested for the police to successfully do this. Marching through a park and clearing people out accomplishes that goal quite well. In this case people were arbitrarily arrested and in some occasions allegedly beaten or abused. This is a traumatic event and also could instil somewhat irrational (yet warranted to some degree) fear of the police and government. If you were recently arbitrarily arrested without cause and put in third-world detention facilities do you actually think that they are going to still have the same level of trust in the system? Do you not think that it is understandable that some people will be scared to come forward?

If you take issue with any factual statement I have made I encourage you to either call me or respond in writing and I will be happy to provide evidence of my claims. I also encourage you to view videos posted on the internet. I am not saying that there isn’t an explanation for some of the police violence that is so apparent. We don’t have all the answers but we, the public deserve a full and impartial inquiry to determine if there were any justifications to all of the travesties we witnessed. Violence undertaken by criminals does not make us all criminals. If we are forced to give up civil liberties for security on the whim of an unelected police force they exist only on paper.