McGuinty rejects call for full public inquiry into G20
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty rejected calls for a public inquiry into the actions of police during the G20 Summit in Toronto last June, despite the release of a 59-page report on Monday.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and National Union of Public and General Employees called for a full-scale public inquiry into police action during the summit as it released a report that says officers committed "widespread and systematic violations of constitutional rights.
"In a democracy, not knowing and not responding to serious violations of civil rights is an affront in itself to democracy," CCLA general counsel Nathalie Des Rosiers told reporters in Ottawa on Monday.
"The degradation and humiliation visited on so many citizens was unconscionable," added NUPG president James Clancy. "It was a betrayal of rights fought for by generations of Canadians."
The report, "Breach of the Peace," is based on public consultations held in November with 63 people in Toronto and Montreal, as well as information from legal observers who the CCLA deployed on Toronto's streets during the June 26-27 summit.
McGuinty said there were already five other reviews underway into the G20, which encompassed a lot of expertise and independent perspectives.
Des Rosiers said none of those investigations had been given a broad enough mandate to probe the role that CSIS and the RCMP played. She also said not all the inquiries had to the power to compel people to testify.
"There are lots of things we don't know. We don't know why the police did not go after the vandals, we don't know why fire trucks could not come to put water on the burning police car, we don't know why rubber bullets were fired on people that we're sitting at Queen's Park," she told CTV News Channel Monday afternoon.
"At this stage we probably need to know what exactly went on, so there is some resolution and that we can move forward with better policing, and maybe changes in the law if necessary."
Aside from calling for a comprehensive public inquiry, the report offers seven other recommendations, such as:
reforming police policy and training to emphasize how the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applies to peaceful protests
investigating the role that "undercover police informants" played among G20 protest groups
creating legislation to govern "public order policing" that includes civilian oversight
removing from police background check databases all charges related to the G20 that have not led to a conviction
The number of reported "illegal detentions and searches and excessive uses of force, cannot have simply been the actions of a few bad apples," the report states, adding that "it is difficult to view this situation as anything other than a failure of policy and training."
Policing around the international summit was the largest ever in Canada during peacetime. When a small group of protesters vandalized property using "black bloc" tactics late in the afternoon of June 26, it led to a security crackdown.
Officers fanned out across the city searching for the culprits and "disregarded the constitutional rights of thousands" in the process, the report says.
"Peaceful protests were violently dispersed."
Des Rosiers said a public inquiry would determine who set out the police strategy for dealing with the protesters.
"Somebody had to give the order of sending rubber bullets on these protesters, somebody had to decide that the horses were necessary, somebody had to decide that indeed they were going to disperse and violently, and so on, or to kettle people for hours in the rain at Queen and Spadina," Des Rosiers told CTV's Power Play Monday evening. "Somebody had to decide, ‘This is what we're doing.' So that's what we need to find out."
More than 1,100 people were arrested -- the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. Many have spoken out about how they were treated, including lawyers and academics. A number of lawsuits are also pending.
Toronto Police and the Ontario Provincial Police were invited to attend the hearings but declined to take part.
One of the many photographs in the report features John Pruyn, a 58-year-old Revenue Canada worker who had his artificial leg pulled off by police, who arrested him while he was sitting on the grass outside the provincial legislature.
Des Rosiers said a number of people who attended the public consultations described being frightened during the crackdown on protesters.
"People were saying, ‘I didn't expect this to happen to me, I didn't expect to see that in Toronto,'" Des Rosiers told Power Play.
While most of those charged in relation to the anti-G20 protests have been released without being convicted, a number of cases are still being heard by the courts.
One police officer is also facing criminal charges related to the protests.
With files from The Canadian Press