The Ontario Ombudsman office has concluded what people like myself have known all along, from what we saw with our own eyes, and experienced first hand. That, during the G20 summit in Toronto, police acted in a way that was not consistent with our fundamental legal rights. Rather, they outright violated them.
Arbitrary arrests, arbitrary detention, and arbitrary search were conducted en masse, across the city, from Allen Gardens to Parkdale, and everywhere in between. And they continued to be conducted even a full 24-hours after the summit, for which the security of it’s attendees was ostensibly the reason therein.
Even with the security of the G20 leaders in mind, the government and the police have no proper authority to suspend basic civil liberties, even in the cause of security for the summit. Security does not come before our basic civil rights, and to be presumed innocent before the law, to not be detained, searched or arrested without proper cause.
Certain law and order types, unfortunately, do not believe that this should be the case. In fact, they’re far too willing to give the state and police leeway to violate rights in the name of security. This is extremely unfortunate. Especially considering, in my experience, these same people are among the biggest detractors of human rights commissions for the very reason they do not believe these commissions uphold “real” rights, and do not follow “real” due process.
It turns out, that when “real” rights are on the line, and when “real” due process is subsumed for the purposes of security, and especially when the primary victims are university-aged left-wing protestors, that the general attitude among these otherwise morally-outraged individuals is that these hooligans got what was coming to them.
But lets give credit where credit is due. Some conservatives, like Mark Steyn, have spoken out against the police abuse. But where is, and excuse me for asking, Ezra Levant on the issue? I’ve nay heard a word from him on G20 policing.
I supported Levant on the free speech file — and I would again. Freedom of speech is far too important to let petty political differences get in the way. But Ezra, and various other conservatives who shared in the outrage at the targeting of political speech before Human Rights Commissions, seem all to comfortable with police beating up left-wing protesters on the streets of Toronto.
I’m no socialist. You could even go so far as to call me an anti-socialist. And I’m under no illusions that many, if not most, of the demonstrators on the streets of Toronto could be labeled as such. But that doesn’t mean they have any less rights.
But we know, with certainty, that it wasn’t just socialists who were arrested. In fact, even some fairly conservative individuals were arrested in the Queen & Spadina kettle. Among the protests coming down Spadina Ave that day, included a group of fiscal conservative protesters who were protesting the financial bailouts. Yes, that’s right. Some of them got arrested, too.
In the case of the mass arrests at Queen & Spadina on Sunday and on the Esplanade the night prior, where TVO host Steve Paikin was threatened with arrest, despite thousands and thousands of hours of video footage, there is absolutely no evidence of anything other than peaceful demonstrations occurring. There is only unspecified police “intelligence”, according to Toronto Police chief Bill Blair that there were “elements” within these peaceful demonstrations that were preparing to unleash untold levels of anarchy on the city.
The Esplanade protest, such that it was, by all accounts was a largely unpartisan one. It’s message seemed largely, “this is our city, and we damn well have a right to be here”. And you know what? They damn well did.
This notion of “preventative arrest” is one of the most insidious and egregious notions of law enforcement I have ever come across in this country. The notion was such that, since police had “intelligence” that “some individuals” in the larger crowd were planning on using black bloc tactics, they had to arrest everyone to make sure they got those few individuals.
Surprisingly, most law and order conservatives I talk to are more than happy with that. Their response, in earnest, is “what did you expect on the G20 weekend? They shouldn’t have been there.”
That’s right. We should obey our masters and wilfully and graciously waive our basic rights whenever the government decides to hold an international event in your backyard. And it was, most certainly in my backyard. In fact, and as so many fist-pumping pro-policing conservatives conveniently ignore, is that I and tens of thousands of people lived not just near, but within the security perimeter the government imposed on us.
Property owners found themselves informed their homes and business would essentially be a no-rights zone for 3-4 days. They were told they would need to register with the RCMP to have the right to come and go from their own property.
Yet, these law and order conservatives will kick and scream about property rights. Unless it’s the property rights, of those “downtown elitists” being abridged, I guess. Rights are simply things that can be bent and broken to ideological ends to these people.
So if you’re one of those people who actually cares about civil liberties, just remember who all these people are, the next time they wax outraged about freedom of speech, due process, or property rights. Remember how situational and self-interested their value of these rights are. Remember how they sat back and said nothing in this case, and in some cases, cheered the police and the state on for all it’s abuses of liberty. Remember that. I know I will.