Public tells Toronto Police Services Board a G-20 inquiry must find out why rights violated and by whom
BERTRAND J. RIVIERE, THE REAL NEWS NETWORK: Hi. I’m Bert Riviere for The Real News Network. I’m in front of Toronto police headquarters, where today the Toronto Police Civilian Oversight Committee is taking input from the public into its inquiry report regarding police conduct during the G-20 protests.
[VOICEOVER]: The Toronto Police Services Board (TPSB) is a civilian body that oversees the Toronto Police Service, Canada’s largest municipal police force. Its powers include the establishment of police policy, budget approval, as well as the hiring and firing of the chief of police. The board has decided to conduct an inquiry into G-20 policing, with special importance placed on governance, accountability, and transparency. On July 22, it welcomed members of the public to share suggestions for items to be included as terms of reference for the investigation.
VIKRAM MULLIGAN, PHD STUDENT: Our police chief has admitted publicly that our elected representatives granted police no special powers outside of the security zone; that is, he arbitrarily and unilaterally seized for himself the unlawful powers of search, seizure, and detention that were exercised. I urge this board to include an explicit directive for the independent reviewer to investigate the systemic problem of police unlawfully overstepping their authority and violating our rights during the G-20 summit.
DOUG JOHNSON HATLAM, MINISTER, MENNONITE CENTRAL COMMITTEE: First, the Miami model. This policing strategy includes the kind of kettling that we saw at Queen and Spadina, the Esplanade, and to a lesser extent at other venues, such as in Parkdale, where I live. It also includes, among other things, allowing black bloc rioters to run rampant for a time in order to tar all protesters as vandals and anarchists. Was it in place? If so, who ordered it? Who gave the order not to engage black bloc rioters initially?
ZACH DUBINSKY, TORONTO RESIDENT: And among the TPSB’s policies are a policy on the use of force, which requires that all police use of force comply with Ontario Regulation 926. Any legitimate review, I submit, should consider the following. Did, for example, the police use of chemical substances to disperse peaceful protesters seated in and around Queen’s Park on Saturday, June 26 violate Section 14.1 of Regulation 926?
RIVIERE: Among those present was Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, whose mandate includes the protection of civil rights and liberties.
NATHALIE DES ROSIERS, GENERAL COUNSEL, CANADIAN CIVIL LIBERTIES ASSOC.: We had 50 monitors at the G-20, and they acted as independent observers. The monitoring program had been discussed with representative from the TPS in advance of the summit. Nevertheless, five monitors were arrested, along with 1,100 other people during the G-20 summit. That review must be done by someone that has credibility, so that everybody has restored public confidence in the police.
RIVIERE: Prominent civil and constitutional attorney Julian Falconer is representing the Free Press Four, a group of journalists who allege their rights were infringed upon by police during the G-20. Falconer has also raised concerns about the board’s credibility.
JULIAN FALCONER, ATTORNEY, CIVIL AND CONSTITUTIONAL LAW: What is contemplated by your review is a look at the command structure that permitted the G-20 excesses. We would all be naive if we did not appreciate that the contract Chief Blair so publicly made, so publicly made, that this would be a service that protected peaceful protest, that contract was breached. It was broken. Peaceful protesters were detained. Peaceful protesters were arrested. Peaceful protesters were jailed. What went wrong? Why was the police services board asleep at the switch (with great respect)? What happened? These matters clearly implicate the police services board. Now, the truth of the matter is, Mr. Chair, members of the board, in being implicated, it is essential you step back from a process of review, that you have no control over the terms of reference, and that you have no control over the financing of the review. The board should not investigate itself, pure and simple.
RIVIERE: Hamlin Grange, award-winning journalist and five-year member of the Toronto Services Board disagreed with assertions that the board was not fit to carry out its own review.
HAMLIN GRANGE, TORONTO POLICE SERVICES BOARD: First of all, you accuse this board of being asleep at the switch. You’ve made a number of pronouncements [in] regards to the cozy relationship between this board and the chief. And you’re also suggesting here that we should simply wait for others to act. You want us not to do anything and wait for others to act, but nobody else is doing anything on this issue? I’m not clear on this, Mr. Falconer.
FALCONER: Very fair question.
GRANGE: Have you got an answer?
FALCONER: I’ve got an answer.
FALCONER: If you wanted to act, the time to do it was when it was included as a secret power on the main agenda item. You didn’t act. If you wanted to act, it was when the public first started—.
GRANGE: I’m sorry. Say again?
FALCONER: I’m trying to answer you.
GRANGE: No, no. I’m sorry. You say something was on an agenda somewhere?
GRANGE: Where was—what was on the agenda?
FALCONER: I was advised—I was advised that this board knew and had information that the chief would be petitioning the government about the secret power. That is the information I had. I’m operating on that information. Now, if that information is wrong—and I don’t think it is—if it’s wrong—and I don’t think it is—then the question becomes: what happened?
RIVIERE: The “secret power” Falconer refers to is the Public Works Protection Act, an obscure law established in World War II allowing any building, roadway, bridge, or approach thereto to be declared a public work, allowing police to stop and search anyone approaching the public work, and drastically broadening the powers of police or anyone appointed a guard of the public work. The act was applied during a closed-door meeting of the Ontario provincial cabinet and was published on an obscure legal website, leading many to describe it as “secret”.
FALCONER: Frankly, there are major issues that create a cloud, and these questions are best answered by someone for whom you don’t control the purse strings and you do not determine the terms of reference. It creates, frankly, the perception that this is an exercise in public relations and nothing more.
RIVIERE: Lisa Walter, one of the Free Press Four journalists represented by Julian Falconer, also raised concern as to the value of the board’s review.
LISA WALTER, JOURNALIST, ARRESTED DURING THE G-20: I was on the ground during the G-20 as a reporter for Our Times magazine, and as such it’s greatly important to me that not only the issues of supervision and policy but the minutia of what took place on the ground is examined very carefully.
RIVIERE: The following video shows the moment of Lisa Walter’s arrest while attempting to document police actions during the G-20 weekend.
POLICE OFFICER: You get out of here!
WALTER: I’m not doing anything except watching you hurt this man unnecessarily.
POLICE OFFICER: Officer. You know what? She is obstructing—.
WALTER: I’m with the media. I’m with the frickin’ media.
POLICE OFFICER: You know what? Grab that woman. She’s under arrest. She’s causing a disturbance.
POLICE OFFICER 2: Chick, you’re under arrest. Put your hands behind your back.
POLICE OFFICER: Hands behind your back.
WALTER: I can’t. It’s trapped.
BYSTANDER: How many police officers does it take to take down one person? Be gentle. You’re the ones who are in power, not the people on the floor. Be sensitive, for God’s sakes. We’re people.
POLICE OFFICER: We’ll get you next.
RIVIERE: Alok Mukherjee, the chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, has stated that the board will not look at individual claims of police misconduct, such as Lisa Walters’ case. Attorney Howard Morton, while welcoming the inquiry, questioned how it could be effective without looking at such cases.
HOWARD MORTON, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: If you don’t look at operations, if you don’t look at what happened on the ground, how are you going to review accountability? Accountability with respect to what? With respect to this board’s role in terms of its dealing with the police in preparation for G-20? Similarly, how are you going to look at policy? Was the policy complied with? I mean, unless I’m really missing something, I can’t imagine how you can look at the criteria that you’ve set out, Mr. Chair, without looking at what happened on the road. You have to look at that. You don’t have to look at specific complaints, but you can look at hours and hours and hours of videotape of what occurred on the streets, and that’s certainly within your purview. I mean, in terms of your policy, I would have thought the policy of this police services board was the Charter of Rights. And it’s clear if you watch the videos that there were several breaches.
RIVIERE: Morton also raised concerns as to the board’s decision not to investigate actions of non-Toronto-based members of the over 10,000 officer Integrated Security Unit that directed and executed G-20 policing operations.
MORTON: The policing action that took place in the city of Toronto, in Metropolitan Toronto, was basically a military operation involving all police officers from various police forces. The public doesn’t even know who was in charge.
RIVIERE: Although the summit took place in Toronto, Alphonse MacNeil, a chief superintendent of the RCMP, Canada’s federal police force, was named operational commander of the Integrated Security Unit. It is still unclear what role the Integrated Security Unit and the Toronto Police Services Board played in supporting the recommendation to implement the act.
MORTON: In our respectful view, any policing which takes place within Metropolitan Toronto comes under your purview, and you are responsible to review that, because otherwise you will be accused of simply softshoeing your way around what officers from various police forces may have done or may not have done, or did they have individual policies.
RIVIERE: The Province of Ontario’s independent police review director, Gerry McNeely, announced that his organization would launch their own systematic policing review. The Toronto Police Services Board has decided that it will also continue with its review. The Toronto Community Mobilization Network has launched its own “people’s investigation”, urging members of the public to submit evidence to aid in the defense of G-20 protest organizers. Others continue to push for a federal inquiry, arguing that neither of the investigations launched on Thursday have the jurisdiction to investigate the federal and provincial politicians involved. Neither the premier of Ontario nor the prime minister of Canada have yet declared support for such a process.
DEMONSTRATORS: Peaceful protest! Peaceful protest!