Saturday, July 31, 2010

Recommendation for Another James Travers' Column

I'm sure everyone has heard that the key to cooking a frog is to slowly raise the water temperature so that it doesn't jump out of the pot. In his column today, James Travers suggests that is the key to understanding how the Harper Government has largely succeeded in taking the country in a direction it really is not philosophically in tune with: incremental conservatism over a sustained period of time. Click here to read the article.

Friday, July 30, 2010

More Commentary on The Census

If you got the opportunity to read the James Travers article I recommended in my last post, the details of a poll commissioned by the Globe might interest you. The results show that 75% of the prominent economists surveyed oppose the elimination of the compulsory long census form. The specifics can be found by clicking here.

James Travers' Thoughts on Recent Conservative Missteps

The Toronto Star's James Travers has written an interesting analysis on recent mistakes made by the ideologically-driven Harper Conservatives that have driven down their poll numbers. Please click here to read it.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Jacmel, Haiti, Six Months Later

There is a lovely photo essay on the Globe and Mail website that I invite you to look at. If you have the time, read each of the captions accompanying the photos. Reading them almost guarantees you the pleasure of a broad smile when you get to the last photo. Let me know if I am wrong.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

John Ibbitson on Munir Sheikh's Integrity

I wrote the other day on my admiration for the courage and integrity of Munir Sheikh, the former head of Statistics Canada who resigned to protect the organization's integrity and reputation after Industry Minister Tony Clement spoke falsely when he clained that StatsCan had essentially given its blessing to the change to a voluntary completion of the long census form. In the following article, the Globe's John Ibbitson writes in detail on that decision:

Munir Sheikh shows us what integrity
and leadership look like

John Ibbitson

Munir Sheikh’s testimony before the Commons industry committee reminded us of something that too many forget: He did not resign as deputy minister responsible for Statistics Canada for the wrong reason; he resigned for the right reason.

Journalism sometimes distorts through conflation. So while the initial stories concerning Mr. Sheikh’s departure correctly explained what caused the first deputy minister to resign on a question of principle, as days passed, a crucial distinction became blurred.

The impression gained ground that Mr. Sheikh quit because the Conservative government decided to scrap the mandatory long-form version of the 2011 census, replacing it with a voluntary survey. That’s not true.

It is true that Mr. Sheikh advised the government that scrapping the mandatory census would lead to less accurate results.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper took that advice, rejected it and ordered a voluntary survey. As a public servant, Mr. Sheikh was obliged to carry out that instruction. If cabinet wants to undermine the integrity of the census, then that’s the right of cabinet. It is the professional duty of the public service to carry out the directions of the government of the day, whatever its members might think of those directions.

Mr. Sheikh only resigned when Industry Minister Tony Clement claimed something he should never have claimed. In a July 16 story on The Globe and Mail’s front page, Mr. Clement stated in an interview that Statistics Canada had assured him a voluntary survey, sent to a larger group of people, would yield satisfactory results.

“I asked [Statistics Canada] specifically, ‘Are you confident you can do your job?'” he told Steven Chase. “They said ‘If you do these extra things: the extra advertising and the extra sample size, then yes, we can do our job.' “

That could not be true: if people who are poorer or less educated are not filling out a census because they don’t understand its importance, increasing the number of people receiving the form won’t help one whit. Either Mr. Sheikh did not give that assurance, or he gave it knowing it to be false. Rather than permit the latter impression to take hold, damaging both his integrity and that of Statistics Canada, he resigned.

“The fact that in the media and in the public that there was this perception that Statistics Canada was supporting a decision that no statistician would, it really casts doubt on the integrity of that agency, and I as head of that agency cannot survive in that job,” Mr. Sheikh told the committee.

It is one thing to quit your job because you don’t agree with the boss. It is something quite different to quit your job rather than see the integrity of the people you lead compromised. There aren’t many of us who would do such a thing. But Munir Sheikh would, and did.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Michael Valpy's View on the Census Fiasco

The Globe's Michael Valpy has an interesting article in today's paper on reasons behind the census decision of the Harper Government, a decision condemned by almost everyone thus far. It is well-worth reading:

Harper’s census push months in the making

Scrapping the mandatory long form stems from libertarian convictions, insiders say

Michael Valpy

From Monday's Globe and Mail Published on Monday, Jul. 26, 2010 3:00AM EDT Last updated on Monday, Jul. 26, 2010 10:56AM EDT

Prime Minister Stephen Harper decided at the end of December to scrap the mandatory long-form census despite being told by Statistics Canada officials that important data would likely be lost or impaired as a result.

He considered going further by making the whole census voluntary, people familiar with what transpired have revealed. On the long census form, he overrode objections from his own officials in the Privy Council Office and senior finance department staff, although Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said on the weekend that he thinks census data can be collected voluntarily without being compromised.

The government announced at the end of June that the long form would be voluntary in the 2011 census.

Opposition MPs will get their first chance to question Industry Minister Tony Clement, the minister responsible for Statscan, and former chief statistician Munir Sheikh, who has quit in protest against the change, when they appear before a parliamentary panel on Tuesday.

Mr. Harper’s decision has baffled political analysts familiar with his thinking – people including political scientist Tom Flanagan, who played a key role in Mr. Harper becoming prime minister – but not University of Calgary economist Frank Atkins, his graduate thesis supervisor.

While careful to stress he is not putting words in the Prime Minister’s mouth, Prof. Atkins suggested Mr. Harper acted from a deep philosophical conviction – a libertarian view of the mandatory long-form census, which has been in use since 1971, as a Big Brother manifestation of the intrusive state.

Mr. Harper has indicated previously that he has philosophical problems with Statscan.

At a cabinet meeting at least 18 months ago, then-foreign affairs minister Maxime Bernier – who has assumed a lead role in defending the government’s long-form decision – proposed major cuts to Statscan based on ideological libertarianism. The Prime Minister was reported to be supportive (while then-clerk of the Privy Council Kevin Lynch was not).

Said Prof. Atkins: “I would agree with this census decision from a libertarian point of view. People like me look on this as the thin edge of the wedge, sort of ‘Big Brother’s around the corner,’ if you’re forcing people to reveal knowledge even though the knowledge isn’t going to be attached to them.”

That accords with the Prime Minister’s Office statement: “The government made this decision because we do not believe Canadians should be forced, under threat of fines, jail, or both, to disclose extensive private and personal information.”

In fact, there are two faces to the controversy: the compulsory collection of information and the purposes for which the data may be used.

Academics and others have categorized what pollster Allan Gregg last week called “a classic culture war cleavage” as a clash between the role of knowledge, evidence and reason and the role of intuition, “common sense” and “decency.” In this view, the elimination of the mandatory long form is seen by Mr. Harper’s philosophical critics as an expression of the current small-c conservative ideological tendency to value belief and conviction over “data” and rationality.

Former Reform Party leader Preston Manning points out that conservatives see a battle as well: against the ideology of “social engineering” in the data-and-rationality camp.

In Harper’s Team, his book on Mr. Harper’s journey to power, Mr. Flanagan wrote that winning elections and controlling the government as much as possible is the most effective way of shifting the public philosophy.

“If you control the government, you choose judges, appoint the senior civil service, fund or de-fund advocacy groups, and do many other things that gradually influence the climate of opinion,” he said.

Writing in the online publication The Mark, University of Ottawa political scientist Paul Saurette said: “This is a remarkable statement. [Mr.] Flanagan is suggesting that … electoral victory is important primarily as a tool in the service of a much greater and longer-term ideological goal: the transformation of the broad public philosophy of Canada and the cultivation of an enduring set of conservative values and philosophical principles in Canadians.

“Once one appreciates that this perspective is quite likely shared by some of the key decision-makers in the current government, the policy shift towards a voluntary long census makes a lot more sense.”

Friday, July 23, 2010

Munir Sheikh

Although it is highly unlikely Munir Sheikh will ever read this brief blog post, I would like to take a moment to express my admiration for a man who, in tendering his resignation as the head of Statistics Canada over the Harper Government's scrapping of the compulsory long census form, made what must have been the most difficult professional decision of his life. By deciding that the price to be paid for continuing in a job he must have relished, a job that represented the pinnacle of a 42-year career, Mr. Sheikh has shown that both personal and professional integrity are still alive in the world today.

In a country and a world where such public displays are lamentably rare, his example shines a piercing light on what is possible when human beings decide to act with honour and dignity for the greater good rather than the usual self-interest that defines so many of us.

May his principled choice provide inspiration for others in times to come.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Furor Over the Census

I will be the first to admit that higher mathematics, including statistical analysis, is not my forte. However, the almost universal condemnation the Harper Government has received for its decision to scrap compulsory completion of the long census form by 20% of the population has convinced me of the vital role it plays in, among other things, social and economic planning, both of which are essential to Canada's well-being. The matter is of such import that the head of Statistics Canada, Chief Statistician Munir Sheikh, in a lamentably rare demonstration of public integrity, has resigned over the issue. Indeed, the entire census debacle has led me to consider a number of things, not the least of which are a citizen's responsibilities within a democracy.

In an obvious nod to the Tories' reactionary power base, Industry Minister Tony Clement claims justification for ending the compulsory aspect of the long census form by asserting it is too intrusive upon people's privacy, yet another instance of government interference in citizens' lives. In fact, he claims that both Statistics Canada and the Government have fielded many complaints from people about this intrusion. Ironically, statistics do not support his claim, as both the Government and Statistics Canada have received only about three complaints each.

Nonetheless, even if it had received a large volume of complaints, would the Government have been justified in eliminating it? It is this question that got me pondering both the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.

The majority of us, I assume, are aware of our rights under The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (especially in light of the fact that several of them were willfully violated by both the Government and the police during the recent G20 in Toronto). However, how often do we consider the obligations citizenship entails, along with the fact that we generally discharge those obligations faithfully, whether we like them or not?

Take, for example, jury duty. I have never known anyone who goes to the mailbox hoping to receive a summons for duty along with its potential to disrupt the normal flow of daily life, sometimes even for months at a time, with little or no financial compensation. Yet in spite of its intrusiveness, we accept it as one of our responsibilities under the law, one that helps to ensure a fair trial for the accused.

Similarly, despite a seemingly almost universal belief that taxes are too high, most of us, again in recognition of their importance in maintaining a society reflective of our values, pay them instead of attempting to defraud the government.

As well, whether they be municipal bylaws requiring us to clean up after our dogs or maintain our property to certain standards, traffic laws that forbid the running of red lights, provincial or federal laws prescribing penalties for criminal acts against property and people, the vast majority of us obey and support these intrusions, in no small measure because, once again, we appreciate their vital role in civil society, where the inclinations of the few do not trump the needs and values of the many.

So to live in society, by definition, requires reasonable limitations on personal freedoms; those limitations, in turn, entail a measure of government intrusion into our lives. However, by pandering to the worst instincts of a minority of the population, the Harper Government is once more undermining values that Canadians hold dear, thereby once again demonstrating its contempt for true democracy and the people it was elected to serve, yet two more reasons that the Conservatives are, in my opinion, unfit to continue to hold public office.

Monday, July 19, 2010

More Disturbing Video of Police Violation of Charter Rights

As most people probably know, on June 26 in Toronto, the police attacked and arrested many protesters at Queen's Park, the site designated as an official G20 protest zone. Although the following video is largely unedited, watching only a few minutes of it provides ample evidence of the need for a full public inquiry, something Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty continues to insist is unnecessary. The evidence on the video represents just one more reason he has lost my vote.

Reader Commentary on The Globe and Mail Website

Although I subscribe to The Globe and Mail, I find myself checking its website several times a day, both for updates and content that is only available online. Despite its shortcomings, it really is the newspaper of record for me.

That being said, I have been profoundly disappointed with the 'semi-moderation' of their reader comment boards. It seems that almost anything can be posted, and it is only by alerting the moderator to some truly objectionable comments that they may be removed.

While the first few comments on any given story may contain some insightful observations, it never takes very long for the reactionary crowd, almost all of whom hide behind pseudonyms, to post their vile, often racist and completely nonconstructive comments, leading to an inevitable spiral downward into name-calling, labelling, and ad hominems.

While I almost never bother to read the comments anymore, I did yesterday. A story had run about Nelson Mandela's 92nd birthday; because he is a man I revere, I posted my own thoughts about him and what he represents, partly to offset the minority comments about him being a terrorist and communist, etc. One poster, whose comments were later removed, expressed the birthday wish that he “rot in hell.” I'm sure I wasn't the only one to alert the moderator about his offensiveness.

Why the Globe doesn't tighten up its comments policy is beyond me. To allow the drivel that these people post diminishes any chance of meaningful discussion and debases the paper itself. In my mind, a good start would be to require registration under one's actual name, with verification required before posting is allowed. After all, anonymous letters are not printed in the paper, and requiring actual identification of the poster would deter many of these cowardly hate-spewers.

To do nothing will only contribute to the spread of even more invective, thereby limiting the possibilities of civilized and constructive discourse.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

More on G20 Charter Violations

Today, several cities are planning rallies calling for any independent inquiry into police and government behaviour during the G20 Summit. Take a look at this video for yet another reason this is worth caring about.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Another Failure on the Part of the Liberal Party of Canada

That I am not a supporter of the Harper Conservatives does not blind me to the many deficiencies of the Ignatief-led Liberals. When they had the chance to stop the Conservative omnibus budget bill, which contains myriad provisions wholly unrelated to budget matters (loosening up of environmental regulations and assessments, selling off AEC, privatizing parts of the Post Office service, etc.), the Liberals ensured they had insufficient members in the House so that they could vote against the bill without triggering an election, a budget being a confidence measure.

It then went on to the Senate, which putative Liberal Leader aspirant Bob Rae described as "the best place to amend the bill." Unfortunately, and perhaps predictably, when the final vote came in the Senate yesterday, guess what, again there was an inadequate number of Liberal Senators in the Red Chamber to block the bill.

Could this have anything to do with last week's threat by Conservative Senator and former Conservative Party campaign chairman Doug Findley's threat that an election would ensue if the Senate didn't pass the entire bill intact?

Below is the full story from this morning's online Globe:

Senators skip town after Liberals fail budget-bill test

Gloria Galloway

1. School's out for summer. It took a long night and many words of despair from both Liberals and independents but the Senate passed a contentious omnibus budget bill Monday that contains measures its detractors say have little to do with the budget.

Bill C-9 is now law after opposition attempts to amend it were defeated by a vote of 48 to 42. It received royal assent late Monday night and the senators have been released to begin their summer vacations.

The Liberals and three of the four Senators who are not aligned with either major party opposed the bill, saying the minority Conservative government was burying measures within the 900 pages that it could not have pushed through the House of Commons as stand-alone items. Liberals in the House had allowed the bill to pass to avoid an election.

The legislation provides, among other things, for the sell-off of the power division of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., the privatization of part of Canada Post and a major restructuring of environmental assessments.

Late Monday afternoon, the Conservatives moved to close debate on the issue and listened quietly as Liberals and independents rose to oppose it. Several hours later, the Tories managed to defeat amendments from the Senate finance committee, which would have hived off the controversial portions. And, finally, late in the evening, the bill was passed.

The Liberals say they tried to get enough of their members in their seats to stop the bill. Senator Terry Mercer of Nova Scotia, who has been laid up with a bad back and was not expected to make it to Ottawa for the vote, was in the chamber. But seven of his Liberal colleagues did not show up.

So, even though there were five Conservatives missing (independent Senator Jean-Claude Rivest voted with the Tories to pass the bill), the Liberals could not muster the forces to defeat it or change it.

But James Cowan, the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, spoke out against it.

“Selling off AECL, watering down environmental assessments, changing the authorities of the post office – these are significant policy issues that should be brought individually before Parliament so that interested Canadians can make their views known, and then Parliament can decide on their merit,” Mr. Cowan told the Red Chamber.

“Honourable senators, good public policy is not made this way. If these provisions did not belong in a budget bill before, then they certainly do not belong there now.”

Monday, July 12, 2010

What Will the Federal Conservatives Decide?

Whether or not the House of Commons public safety committee examines the issues arising from the Charter Rights violations during the G20 Summit is in the hands of the Conservatives, as pointed out in the accompanying story. According to NDP MP Don Davies, who has pushed for an investigation, Conservative committee members aren't opposed, but aren't happy at the prospect of having to return to Ottawa for hearings.

Given that each year, our elected representatives seem to spend less and less time conducting Parliamentary business (my guess would be about 7 months this year, what with proroguing and a protracted summer recess), their carping rings a bit hollow.

MPs tackle summit security;

Gloria Galloway

1. Human rights at home. The question, NDP MP Don Davies says, is how to properly handle dissent and public assembly in Canada.

Mr. Davies, with the consent of the Liberals and the Bloc, has forced a meeting Monday of the Commons public safety committee to study the security and human-rights issues around last month’s G20 summit in Toronto.

Canada has fallen into an unhealthy pattern over the last 10 years of international political events, Mr. Davies argues. “There is increasingly substantial security and outbreaks of violence” as well as an escalation in interference with lawful protest, he told The Globe.

“I want us to move to a place where we can let people peacefully assemble.”
But it will be up to the Conservatives on the public safety committee to determine if the study Mr. Davies wants to conduct will go ahead.

The government could suggest to Tory committee chair Garry Breitkreuz that he call in sick. In that case a member of the opposition parties would have to take over Mr. Breitkreuz’s duties and, if the Conservatives provide a substitute for their absent member, they would gain a majority vote at the meeting.

Mr. Davies said Conservative committee members have indicated they do not oppose a study of the issues surrounding the summit. But, he said, they were not happy about the timing – this is the second time this month the members of the public safety committee have been recalled from their ridings for a special hearing.

So the first hour of the meeting will be devoted to the issue of whether there should be a meeting in the first place. If the answer is yes, Mr. Davies has lined up Nathalie Des Rosiers, the general counsel of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association as a first witness.

Mr. Davies said he hopes the committee will commence the study while the events are still fresh in the minds of witnesses. He envisions multiple meetings and hopes to call witnesses including Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, RCMP Commission William Elliott and a representative of Ontario’s Liberal government.

Mr. Davies told the Hill Times that some prosecutors have suggested making it illegal for demonstrators to wear balaclavas — a tactic used by the Black Bloc demonstrators as they committed acts of vandalism in the streets of Toronto.
"I'm not suggesting that, I'm not proposing that, but we should be analysing these things, with a view to see how can we as a society, a modern democracy, be a model to the world," Mr. Davies told the newspaper.

Meanwhile, the union that represents many of the journalists who covered the event, including those at The Globe and Mail, has written to the committee to demand an independent federal inquiry of police actions at the summit.

“The inquiry should go beyond that initiated by the Toronto Police Services Board earlier this week,” the Southern Ontario Newspaper Guild said in its letter.

“After all, this was a federally-coordinated police response so it only makes sense that the investigation be at the federal level. Otherwise, questions will be met with the classic ‘not my department’ response and the public will never get to the truth and crucial lessons will never be learned.”

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How Long Can McGuinty and Harper Ignore the People?

Given the fact that the Toronto Police Board and the Office of the Ontario Ombudsman are each going to launch probes, however narrow, into the violation of Charter Rights at the G20 Summit, the following story about an impending mass rally today at Queen's Park demanding a public inquiry into the fiasco leads one to wonder how long Messieurs McGuinty and Harper can ignore the legitimate concerns of the people. The key, it seems to me, is to keep the issue in the spotlight as long as possible.

Thousands expected at G20 public inquiry rally

Demonstration at the Ontario Legislature to protest police crackdown during the summit

Toronto — The Canadian Press Published on Saturday, Jul. 10, 2010 11:33AM EDT Last updated on Saturday, Jul. 10, 2010 11:38AM EDT

Two weeks after police cracked down on G20 demonstrations in Toronto, protesters will march again.

Thousands are expected to gather at the Ontario Legislature this afternoon to demand an independent public inquiry into security costs and police actions during the G20 summit.
Provincial New Democrat Party leader Andrea Horwath is expected to speak at the rally, which begins at 1 p.m.

Demonstrators are expected to march through the downtown core.

Almost 1,000 people were arrested during the summit weekend, after a group of vandals broke away from protesters, smashing windows and burning police cars.
Demonstrations are also expected in Halifax, Kingston and Montreal.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Some Heartening News

The Globe and Mail reports that the Office of the Ombudsman, led by Andre Marin, is launching an investigation into the 'secret powers' granted to police for the G20 Summit. A tenacious and thorough individual, we can only hope that Marin is able to get to the bottom of the McGuinty Government's role in the entire shameful episode:

Ontario ombudsman to investigate secret G20 law

Probe to look at origin and communication of the sweeping changes to civil liberties in downtown Toronto, passed ahead of June summit

Karen Howlett
Toronto — Globe and Mail Update Published on Friday, Jul. 09, 2010 10:45AM EDT Last updated on Friday, Jul. 09, 2010 11:39AM EDT

Ombudsman André Marin announced on Friday that his office is launching an investigation into sweeping new powers for police secretly approved by the McGuinty government.

The controversial rules allowed police to question and potentially arrest anyone near the security zone for the G20 summit in Toronto who refused to produce identification or be searched.

Mr. Marin said his office will probe the origin and subsequent communication of the sweeping changes to civil liberties in downtown Toronto, passed by the province prior to the June 26-27 G20 summit.

His office has received 22 complaints relating to the G20, including several alleging that a lack of transparency and public communication about the regulation led to an atmosphere of secrecy and confusion and contributed to violations of civil liberties.

“The complaints we’ve received so far raise serious concerns about this regulation and the way it was communicated, and I think there is a very strong public interest in finding out exactly what happened and how that affected the rest of the events of the G20 weekend,” Mr. Marin said in a news release.

In his first comments to the media this week about the regulation, Premier Dalton McGuinty acknowledged that his government could have done a better job to clear up confusion surrounding it.

His government has come under criticism from civil liberties experts and opposition members for failing to tell people that their rights had changed.
New Democratic Party justice critic has said: “This law was not only passed in secret, it was kept secret.”

The law was approved June 2 through an order-in-council, with no debate in the legislature. The regulatory amendment was quietly posted June 16 on the government's e-laws website. It came to light only after a York University student was held for five hours on June 25 for refusing to show identification near the security fence.
Mr. Marin said his office expects to complete its investigation within 90 days.

He is inviting anyone who has a complaint or relevant information to call 1-800-263-1830 during business hours or complete an online complaint form at .

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Adam Radwanski is Still Working the G20 Charter Rights' Violation File

It is reassuring to know that The Globe and Mail's Adam Radwanski is continuing to pursue the very troubling questions that remain regarding the violation of Charter Rights during the G20 Summit in Toronto. Below I am reproducing one of his online columns that demonstrate his ongoing concern about these issues and why they matter. I have put in bold a few of his more salient points:

Why the 'five metres' mattered

Although it got a more positive response than I'd expected, a few people have asked me why I spent so much time last week covering the "five-metre" law that didn't really exist. After all, it wasn't what was used in most of the dubious arrests during the G20, which happened much further away from the security perimeter.

In her Saturday column, Christie Blatchford more or less summed up that line of thinking (though I have no idea if it was even remotely directed at me): Toronto Star lingo, since “the sweeping powers” granted the police via the “secret” law saw them, according to Toronto Chief Bill Blair, arrest exactly one (1) person under the temporary regulation to the Public Works Protection Act, isn’t the angst-ridden, hyperbolic debate rendered, as someone brighter than me remarked recently, nothing but an intellectual exercise?

It would quite one thing if the 1,000 folks who were detained on G20 weekend were detained under the temporary regulation. The discussion would be meaningful.
But when it’s all said and done, it will turn out that most of those detained were arrested for breach of the peace or to prevent a breach of the peace, which is an arrest authority, not a criminal charge.

In my view, it’s a vile authority too, generally speaking easily misused by police, and it may have been misused here as well.

But the point is, it wasn’t under the new secret sweeping power, which was only partly secret and not very sweeping. It was under long-established common-law police authorities, such as arresting people for breach of the peace or to prevent a breach of the peace that has yet to take place, that most people were picked up.

You want to be angry about something, be angry about that.

Minor quibbles aside (it seems likely to me that at least two people were arrested under the new law), this seems as good an opportunity as any to explain why holding the province to account over the Public Works Protection Act is more than just an "intellectual exercise."

Admittedly, it happens to be the post-G20 angle I'm best-positioned to cover. Provincial politics is my beat, and this - unlike most of the other things that happened both inside and outside the perimeter - is where Dalton McGuinty's government played a role, and deserves to be held to account. That's especially important because, as I explained toward the end of one of my columns last week, the Liberals' lax handling of the police file has not been restricted to the G20.

But beyond that, it seems to me that the abdication of provincial responsibility in announcing and interpreting the temporary law speaks to a broader phenomenon: the choice of governments, through both their actions and inactions, to give police gratuitous leeway in securing these kinds of international summits.

I wrote about this in the week leading up to the summit, and my former colleagues on the editorial board followed up on it last week. I'll spare you a full rehash of those arguments, and leave it at this: When given a chance early last decade to set out parameters for what police can and can't do to ensure the security of events like the G20, the federal government instead wrote legislation that basically told the police to do whatever they want.

So the message from governments to police, even before the saga over the provincial regulation, was that politicians preferred a no-questions-asked approach to security. Then McGuinty's Liberals took it to new extremes - leaving it to the police to announce a temporary law that could lead to arrests, then failing to publicly correct them when they misinterpreted and misrepresented that law.

As it happened, the province got lucky. If more of the action had been closer to the perimeter, the consequences would have been much greater.

But to some degree, the Liberals' blind faith in the police - including the Premier's unqualified support for Chief Bill Blair in the middle of the controversy - had to reinforce the sense that they had free rein to do as they saw fit, whatever part of downtown Toronto they happened to be in.

Was it the most important story out of the G20? Almost certainly not. But these things didn't all happen in isolation. And if there's any hope that our governments will take more responsibility for the liberties/security balance before the next big international event rolls around, it's necessary to underscore how little responsibility they took this time.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Demagoguery is Alive and Well in the Ontario 'Progressive' Conservative Party

As a guest columnist in the Toronto Sun, using demagogic rhetoric reminiscent of his mentor, former Premier Mike Harris, Ontario Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak amply demonstrates why he and his party are not ready to form the next government in Ontario. I have bolded certain parts of the following to underscore his inflammatory appeal to the extreme right wing of his party's supporters as he conveniently casts aside any consideration of Charter Rights, as if those rights should be available only to those with whom he agrees. Indeed, the perceptive reader will notice that not once does he address the violence perpetrated on peaceful protesters unjustly arrested and incarcerated, instead concentrating only on those who committed crimes, their actions somehow justifying everything the police did.

His final paragraph, you may notice, is rich in irony, likely unintentional.

Don’t blame cops for G20 mayhem

It wasn’t frontline police officers who smashed storefront windows and torched police cars

By Tim Hudak, Guest Columnist

The downtown core of Toronto was turned into a conflict zone by a group of lawless hooligans a little more than a week ago.

These reckless thugs were not in Toronto to protest a legitimate political cause. Instead they are part of a circuit of criminals who travel to international summits with one goal in mind — to destroy property, incite mayhem and terrorize law-abiding citizens.

Sadly, in the wake of the violence, a number of usual-suspect special interest groups are attempting to pin blame, not on the hooligans, but instead on our police services or the federal government.

But it wasn’t frontline police officers who spent a weekend smashing in storefront windows, and it wasn’t federal government officials who torched police cars.
Instead these were the acts of violent anarchists, with a long history of using “peaceful” protest marches at international summits as cover for reckless acts of extreme violence.

That is why I oppose the orchestrated attempt by these activists to demonize our police services in the wake of the G20 violence. I proudly stand behind the men and women of our police services that were faced with a daunting and difficult task of protecting the public against these professional vandals and hooligans.

After a week of silence on the G20, I hope Dalton McGuinty will join me in clearly supporting our men and women in uniform.

McGuinty should also have the courage to finally explain why his government passed a secret law to expand police powers during the G20 summit. I believe the public would have understood the necessity of these new powers to contain the violent thugs, but that does not mean McGuinty had the right to hide these new powers from the public.

We all know Ontario’s police officers have two fundamental responsibilities:
First, they are expected to preserve order and protect law-abiding families and businesses from criminal activity.

Second, they are expected to bring those responsible for criminal acts to justice.
It is on this second responsibility that we should now focus our attention.

We must make sure the thugs and hooligans who trashed downtown Toronto are held accountable for their crimes. The right to speak must never be confused with the right to vandalize property that tarnishes the reputation of our city and province.

The McGuinty government must do everything in its power to ensure the criminals behind this violence are caught, tried to the fullest extent of the law and held personally financially responsible for the cost of the damage they have caused.
In addition, the authorities should co-operate with any resident or business that wishes to pursue a civil action against the individuals and groups responsible for this violence.

In the meantime, the senior levels of government should establish a fund to compensate small business owners for property damages and the interruption of business caused by repairing the damages.

The hooligans behind the G20 violence gave our city a black eye on the world stage. We must not let special interest sideshows distract our attention from holding these criminals accountable for the harm they caused.

Now is the time for us to reclaim the reputation of our city and make it clear to the world that in Toronto, law-abiding citizens get protected, criminals get punished, and justice always gets done.

— Hudak is Ontario PC
Party Leader

A Brief Explanation

Although anyone who happens to read my blog on a regular basis might be wondering if I have somehow lost my balance in that all recent posts have revolved around either news stories, my own commentary or that of others regarding the violation of Charter Rights during the G20, I feel the need to offer a small explanation and justification.

First, I have an almost lifelong interest in politics, especially local, provincial, and national. The entire G20 Summit, whether we are talking about the gathering of heads of state or the actions on the street, were political in nature, in that they affect us on both a micro and macro level.

Secondly, the abuse of authority is something that has preoccupied me since my days as both an elementary and secondary student within the Catholic school system, years during which I and many others were both psychologically and physically abused by nuns, priests, and lay teachers. But that topic deserves its own series of posts, which I may get to one of these days.

The third reason for my seeming obsession with the G20 fiasco is that how we define ourselves as Canadians is in no small part contingent upon the freedoms that we enjoy and far too often take for granted. While all of them are essential rights of citizenship, several of them were curtailed and, I would submit, unconstitutionally violated during the G20 in Toronto: freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and freedom of the press.

One of the things I find especially troubling is the fact that many people, while enjoying their freedom of expression, have weighed in on these violations as if their inappropriateness is dependent upon whether or not we agree with the protesters. Several have said that peaceful protesters should have stayed away, that law-abiding citizens move when a police officer tell them to move, etc. Such comments seem to indicate a fundamental lack of understanding of the concept of civil rights. Whether or not we agree with a cause has nothing to do with permitting the expression of that cause, as long as it is done within the boundaries of the law.

And that to me is the crux of the matter: there is ample evidence emerging that countless people committing no crimes were swept up in often violent mass arrests. This fact is not something to be facilely dismissed by anyone, whether you are a Premier, a police chief, a journalist or a private citizen, no matter where you stand on the political spectrum. To do so is to further diminish those rights, leaving them open to the possibility of even worse abuse in the future.

So as long as questions remain and answers are withheld, I will be writing about this topic frequently. As well, I shall continue to reproduce stories from newspapers that I think are relevant, largely because most of those stories tend to be archived after seven days and thus no longer readily available.

Enough said for now.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

A Shocking Story From the G20

I just found a shocking story of a 57-year-old Thorold amputee who suffered incredible abuse at the hands of police while sitting at Queens Park on June 26th with his daughter and two other young people.

Click here to read about it.

Public Pressure is Paying Off

Public pressure seems to be getting some results, judging by the decision of the Toronto Police Services Board to call for an independent inquiry into police abuse of authority during the G20 Summit in Toronto. This marks a reversal from last week, when the head of the board said no inquiry was needed, echoing the sentiments of both Police Chief Bill Blair and Premier Dalton McGuinty.

Here is the story from today's Globe and Mail:

Independent review of Toronto Police G20 conduct moves ahead

Turnabout comes just days after chair denied the need for civilian probe; Will look at ‘oversight, governance and policy’ on summit security

Anna Mehler Paperny

Globe and Mail Update Published on Tuesday, Jul. 06, 2010 9:58AM EDT Last updated on Tuesday, Jul. 06, 2010 10:03AM EDT

In an about-face, Toronto police are moving to establish an independent civilian review of police conduct during the G20.

Alok Mukherjee, chair of the civilian body that oversees the police, put the motion forward just days after he said he sees no need for an external review despite strident calls to the contrary.

The review, which would scrutinize issues related to police “oversight, governance and policy” during and leading up to the summit weekend, when police arrested more than 1,000 people – only 263 of whom were charged with anything other than breach of peace.

Both police chief Bill Blair and Toronto Mayor David Miller defended police actions last week; in an interview with The Globe, Mr. Mukherjee said last week there was no need for an independent review after the force announced it was conducting its own inspection.

But he added that police may have made a mistake by failing to tell the public they'd misinterpreted added powers given police by the province.

Tuesday's move is a “prompt response” to reactions to G20 policing, Mr. Mukherjee told the police services board.

“This is a fairly complex issue we're trying to deal with,” he said. “It was a federal event and it presents some interesting issues of oversight and governance. This is just the first step in that process.”

Monday, July 5, 2010

What Rights were Abused During the G8 In Huntsville?

Very little has been written about any problems during the G8 Summit in Hunts ville, partly, I suspect, because access into the town was very tightly controlled by the authorities, and the town of Huntsville, part of Federal Industry and Trade Minister Tony Clement's riding, benefited from substantial taxpayer dollar infusions to spruce up the town, including extensive renovations to its hockey rink and a $53,000 cabana.

However, as reported on CHCH TV, one of the property owners in the area offered some insight into the tactics used to gain legal permission to be on people's private property. During an interview, the man (whose name I do not recall) told the reporter that the police were going from home to home having people sign a waiver granting this permission. In a tactic reminiscent of the ancient Roman fire brigades that would not put out fires unless the property owners paid them, the man was told by the officer that if he didn't sign the waiver, in the event of trouble, the police would “not be able to offer him any protection.”

Besides being extortionate, that coercive tactic was an obvious lie, since, unless there has been a drastic change in the law, police do not need a homeowner's permission to enter the property if a crime is being committed.

Yet another example of police abuse of authority, and yet another reason that Dalton McGuinty's refusal to call an inquiry makes the Premier complicit in this abuse.

Video Evidence of Police G20 Transgressions

While much of the videos of the Toronto G20 Summit depict acts by vandals or police moving in to arrest peaceful protesters, the following is different, in that it clearly shows violations of Charter Rights, and with absolutely no provocation. I suspect the York Region officers depicted therein will be disciplined by their superiors, not for their actions, but for the fact that they allowed the entire shameful episode to be captured on video. You be the judge:


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Yet Another Damning Assessment of G20 Police Abuse

The Globe's Tabeitha Southey has a personal account of her experience and observations on the street during last weekend's G20, an account that once again underscore's the inadequacy of Dalton McGuinty's response to calls for an inquiry into the whole ugly episode. I have bolded certain parts of the account:

Of a million G20 stories in this taken city, this was mine
If anything, there was less black being worn on Queen than usual

Tabatha Southey

From Saturday's Globe and Mail Published on Friday, Jul. 02, 2010 5:05PM EDT Last updated on Friday, Jul. 02, 2010 5:09PM EDT

I observed a confrontation between police and protesters last Saturday evening from both sides of the police line.

The protesters (vastly outnumbered by the riot police, a frequent sight that weekend) were on Queen Street West in Toronto, chanting, “Peaceful protest!” Many people were merely observing or passing by.

I didn't see any sign that property was being destroyed. And if anything, there was less black being worn on Queen than usual. Hipster cottage weekend or something, I guess.

People seemed mostly to want the right to be on the street and while I haven't particularly wanted to hang out on Queen Street West since 1992, as soon as a police officer told me that I couldn't, I wanted to do just that.

An officer threatened to arrest me for standing on the street (I was with a journalist and a photographer who lives in the building that we were in front of), but after two days of the G20 in Toronto, I was almost as inured to that threat as I was to the random searches I saw going on, everywhere, blocks away from the designated high-security zone.

Earlier that day, well before the much-publicized destruction on Yonge Street, I'd been threatened with arrest for “obstructing” a search by trying to take a picture (at a respectful distance) of two young men being searched.

An officer there had tried to grab my cellphone. Other officers had crowded around. They boisterously mocked the psychiatric patients coming out of the mental-health hospital behind me.

When I eventually, after a heated exchange, asked the officer for a badge number, he walked toward me repeatedly, sticking his chest out so that, if I didn't step back quickly, I'd be hit. As he did this, he yelled, “You want my badge number? You want my badge number? You want my badge number?”

I was scared. I didn't get the badge number.
It's a tiny story beside many much more alarming ones, but these stories have filled this town up.

I spoke to the two shaken men afterward. They said they had been randomly searched. The police had confiscated from their backpacks a black T-shirt (which genuinely seemed to confuse them, apparently unaware of the Black Bloc clique of rioters), their tent poles and a package of tea, while repeatedly threatening to arrest them and accusing them of being members of groups the names of which they couldn't remember.

They had been struck by the fact that the officers were gratuitously rude to passersby, noting the mocking of the psychiatric patients as well. “It's like they really wanted a fight,” one said.

That had been my sense. I'll admit that my well-developed civic pride and years of watching Toronto police frequently show not merely restraint but compassion, with some truly patience-testing people, made me reflexively, if unfairly, wonder whether these officers were from out of town.

Later, at the checkout of a Mexican grocery store in the Kensington Market area, I heard the woman at the counter say that several days before, she had been stopped, asked for ID and searched.

None of this seemed helpful to me. Unless its purpose was to set a tone. Like the hundreds of riot police I saw charging toward a mostly peaceful protest at Queen's Park later that day, banging their shields, it escalated the tension – as did, I believe, those riot police, many mounted, I saw Saturday night on Queen Street, retreating from unarmed protesters with their weapons drawn.

Toward the end of that standoff, word went through the crowd that the “sound cannon” was being brought in, but instead the police simply left, to cheers, for no apparent reason.

A colourful ending to this story would be that a block of Queen Street then descended into anarchistic rule, from which it may never recover. But that's not what happened.

My friends and I may never forget how terrified we were as we stood there, after the police left, watching that angry mob try to figure out where to jump on the streetcar, maybe grab a cab. We saw first-hand the panic that always sets in when someone in Toronto says, “Yeah, me too. But where should we eat?”

Those kinds of standoffs can last for hours in this town. Usually, only the deployment of the “okay, seriously, the kitchen is closing soon, so we have to make a decision” cannon can resolve them.

I'm certain that we need a public (not police) inquiry to determine why we didn't have more of that kind of standoff last weekend.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Thomas Walkom's View of the G20 Violation of Charter Rights

I'm pleased to see the press continuing to examine the abuses of authority that took place last week in Toronto, especially given Premier McGuinty's facile dismissal of the seriousness of the Charter Rights violations. I have highlighted in bold certain parts of Walkom's column that I think warrant particular attention:

Walkom: The G20 summit’s grim lessons for civil liberties

By Thomas Walkom National Affairs Columnist

Two things stand out from the street riots and subsequent police actions that swept downtown Toronto last weekend.

The first is the state blatantly abused its powers. Summits legitimately require security; but in this one, governments went over the top.

The federal government transformed the city’s downtown into a no-go zone. The provincial government secretly passed new regulations to give police extraordinary search and seizure powers and then, when citizens found out, pretended that it hadn’t. The police used their authority to prevent breaches of the peace as an excuse to jail citizens who were committing no crimes.

The second is that most people don’t care. Polls show that more than 70 per cent of Torontonians approve of these abuses.

For that we can thank the small group of rioters who burned police cars and smashed store windows last Saturday. The logic behind those actions (and yes there is a logic) flows from the theory that capitalism is based on violence, albeit violence that is usually veiled. By provoking the state, this intrinsic violence will be revealed, thereby radicalizing the population against both capitalism and the state.
The problem with this theory, as the Red Brigades and other left-wing terrorists found in the 1970s, is that such provocations drive the general population to authoritarianism, not revolution.

Faced with a choice between order and civil liberties, people almost invariably choose order. Think the Nazis in 1930s Germany; think the PATRIOT Act in post 9/11 America.

In last weekend’s brouhaha, governments and the so-called anarchists fed on and supported one another. By threatening to disrupt the summit, the anarchists ensured that the fence would be built. By building the fence, the government ensured that the anarchists would try to attack it. Each side kept upping the ante until the events of last weekend became almost inevitable.

In the end, the violence that always lies behind state authority did show itself to those who had assumed they were immune.

Andrew MacIsaac, a 24-year-old lawyer observing the demonstrations for the Law Union, was swept up by police early Sunday morning and held at the Eastern Ave. detention centre for almost 20 hours. He tells a now-familiar story.

MacIsaac says he and others in the peaceful protest were arrested under the broad authority of police to detain those they think might be about to engage in a breach of the peace.

He was not permitted to contact a lawyer; he was kept handcuffed in a cage with others. He was given two cheese sandwiches over the period and three styrofoam cups of water. The open portable toilet in his cage had no toilet paper (MacIsaac tore off part of his shirt sleeve to help a fellow inmate); he was never formally notified of the charges—if any—levied against him.

In police state terms, this is relatively minor. MacIsaac wasn’t chained in stress positions, as he might have been at Guantanamo Bay. Nor was he flayed with rubber cables, as he might have been in Egypt.

But what’s interesting is that some of the elements of classic authoritarian detention were there, albeit in embryonic forms. He was kept deliberately disoriented; usually, he didn’t know what time it was. He was kept uncomfortable; the combination of bound wrists and concrete floor made it impossible for him to sleep. His sense of self-worth was undermined by an array of minor indignities such as the lack of toilet paper.

In particular, he was kept isolated from the outside world. Requests to call a lawyer were never formally denied, just put off to some undefined and never-reached point in the future.

At one point, an official in plain-clothes told him that the federal government had declared martial law.

When he was released, MacIsaac phoned his mother (it was her birthday). Then, in what may be a fitting epitaph for the entire Toronto G20 Summit disaster, he describes what he did next.

“I took a cab home and I wept.”

Thomas Walkom's column appears Wednesday and Saturday.

A Mother's Lament

There is a fine letter in today's Hamilton Spectator which I am taking the liberty of reproducing below. Eloquently expressed, the writer addresses the abuses of authority that transpired in Toronto last weekend, but hers is a very personal, as well as philosophical, expression of concern over our basic rights.

Mourning Canadian democracy

July 03, 2010
Roberta McQuade
The Hamilton Spectator
(Jul 3, 2010)

Re: G20 summit and policing

The fallout from the debacle of the G20 will felt by all Canadians for some time to come. Today, I mourn the loss of my innocence, in believing I live in a democracy. I did not celebrate Canada Day. That morning at dawn, I removed all my Canada Day flags and decorations from my property.

By virtue of my profession, I travel the world. I have seen first-hand the police actions in third world countries directed at those who would "dare to speak out" and have their voices heard.

To think I would see the "trampling" of our collective rights and the right to "free speech" being discarded is devastating to me as a once proud Canadian. The actions of police in arresting and charging those who were peacefully exercising their rights is something I would expect to witness anywhere else but Canada.

The words "the true north strong and free" of our national anthem are now a mockery.
My youngest daughter was a victim of this suspension of our rights. She was arrested and charged with unlawful assembly and obstruct police. This young woman headed the largest ever contingent of university students to post-Katrina New Orleans, on a Habitat build, this young woman slept in -30C temps outdoors to highlight the plight of the homeless, this young woman volunteers with a soup kitchen. This young woman is a dedicated pacifist who would not even kill a bug.

And this young woman is the daughter of a policeman who was on G20 duty. The police officer who beat her with his/her baton would not have known that. Not everyone was an "anarchist" and armed. Some like my daughter were just there to suport their causes in a peaceful, lawful manner.

I for one will be asking the hard questions of my MPP and MP. And I will voice my outrage and "punish" those who allowed this travesty to happen by my vote in the next elections.

Nothing less than a public inquiry is in order. Canada's reputation for freedom and democracy has suffered a black eye in the court of public opinion, not only here at home, but worldwide.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Premier Comes Out of Hiding

Well, Premier McGuinty has finally emerged from hiding, likely having seen the Angus Reid poll revealing that “73 per cent of Torontonians and two-thirds of Canadians believe police treatment of protesters was justified during the G20 summit.

His confidence thus bolstered that there will be minimal political fallout from last weekend's Charter Rights' violations by the Toronto Police, and his Government's failure to correct the fallacies about 'non-existent' powers, McGuinty's performance (seven days in the making!) suggested a man somewhat truculent and completely unapologetic for the incredibly serious abuses of ordinary citizens' rights last week. Adamant in his refusal to call an inquiry, McGuinty said that those who felt their rights had been 'abridged' (I love that euphemism) have adequate avenues for redress. Sadly, this is yet another instance of the Premier's failure of leadership in that his 'solution' does nothing to shed light on the systemic failure that led to the aforementioned 'abridgement' of Charter Rights. Until the reasons for that failure are known, Canadians dare not rest easy.

BTW, my nose is still raw.

Adam Radwanski - Part 2

I was pleased to see that the Globe's Adam Radwanski is continuing to ask the questions that need to be asked about the abuse of power and the trammeling of our Chart Rights at last weekend's G20 Summit. Below I am reproducing the note I sent him this morning commending his efforts thus far, followed by today's column:

Dear Mr. Radwanski,

Just a short note to thank you for your ongoing analysis of the actions of the police and the McGuinty Government during Toronto's G20 Summit. While it is undoubtedly the hope of both Chief Blair and Premiere McGuinty that this issue will soon fade from Canadians' consciousness, journalistic efforts such as yours will go a long way toward ensuring this doesn't happen. You and the Globe are to be commended for your continued examination of last weekend's very troubling curtailment of Charter Rights, police and government deception, and betrayal of public trust.

Keep up the excellent work.

A timeline on the G20 five-metre rule that didn’t exist

How the law on the summit security fence was misinterpreted is shrouded in confusion

Adam Radwanski

From Friday's Globe and Mail Published on Thursday, Jul. 01, 2010 7:36PM EDT Last updated on Thursday, Jul. 01, 2010 10:44PM EDT

The story around a G20 security regulation quietly passed by the Ontario government has continually changed.

Both the province and Toronto police now acknowledge there was no rule that people merely passing by the summit’s security fence were required to submit to searches and identification checks, and could be arrested if they failed to comply. But how the law was misinterpreted by police, and why the public was allowed to believe until the summit’s conclusion that it was still being enforced, remains shrouded in confusion.

What follows is a timeline of the secret law that wasn’t, taking into account the recent revelation that police were finally told by the province – after at least a couple of arrests – that they were wrongly interpreting the regulation they themselves had asked for.

June 2: On the request of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, Dalton McGuinty's cabinet approves a temporary regulation affecting the Public Works Protection Act. Its aim is to ensure that police are legally authorized to search and demand identification of anyone attempting to enter the security perimeter in downtown Toronto during the G20 summit. There is no announcement.

June 16: The regulation is quietly posted on the government's e-Laws website, but passes unnoticed. (It's not slated to be published in the Ontario Gazette until July 3.)

June 22: When explicitly asked by The Globe and Mail which laws provide for the security measures taken during the G20, two spokespeople for the Integrated G20 Security Unit – including at least one member of the Toronto police – fail to mention the Public Works Protection Act.

June 24: The regulation first comes to light, as at least two activists are arrested under the Public Works Protection Act. Neither appears to have been trying to enter the perimeter. In both cases, police cite a rule that extends their identification and search powers to five metres outside the security fence.

June 25: It's widely reported that, under the provincial regulation, individuals passing by up to five metres outside the security fence can be arrested by police if they fail to show identification or consent to a search. (The regulation, on first glance, appears to confirm this power.)

June 25: At a news conference, Chief Blair says, “The five-metre zone around the fence is for the protection of the security barrier.”

June 25: In an interview, Mr. McGuinty seems to confirm a major change to the law by referring to “something extraordinary happening inside our province,” while affirming his faith in Chief Blair.

June 25: Police realize they'd misinterpreted the regulation, and the “five metres” actually refers to an area inside the fence. (It’s later reported that it was the province that informed them – see below.)

June 26-27: Despite continued media coverage of the “five-metre” rule, no attempt is made by either the province or the police to make clear that it doesn't exist. As a result, Torontonians and visitors remain under the impression that they can be arrested just for passing by the security fence without identification.

June 27: To counter complaints that Ontarians weren't made aware of the new law, the government directs reporters to an advertisement taken out by Toronto police in some newspapers prior to the summit. The ad, titled “What you need to know about the G20 Summit,” makes no mention of the Public Works Protection Act, any recent provincial decisions, or a five-metre rule.

June 28: When contacted, the Premier’s Office discusses the five-metre rule without indicating that it didn't actually exist.

June 29: Chief Blair acknowledges that the five-metre rule never existed, but hints that he didn't correct the record because he “was trying to keep the criminals out.”

June 29: When asked by The Globe and Mail whether any action was taken by the government to get police to stop wrongly enforcing the regulation, a provincial spokesperson responds: “The application of the regulation over the weekend was operational in nature, and we do not interfere in police operational decisions.” The spokesperson also insists “the language of the regulation is very clear.”

June 29: Another government official acknowledges that the regulation was “confusing,” but says that – despite contradictory video evidence – the government does not believe there were any arrests under the non-existent rule.

June 30: The Police Services Board tells The Globe and Mail that, in fact, it was the province that informed police on June 25 – following the arrests – that the regulation was being wrongly interpreted.

That, at least, is the version of events as it currently stands. Given the number of times that the official accounts have shifted over the past week, it may well change again before long.

Will Dalton See His Shadow Today?

It has now been seven days since Premier McGuinty last communicated with Ontarians. Like the elusive Wiarton Willy, one wonders when he does finally emerge from his lair whether he will see his metaphorical shadow and go back into hiding, or feel it is safe politically to once more walk among us.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Canada Day 2010

I would like to wish my fellow Canadians a Happy Canada Day, but unfortunately I am not in a celebratory mood, the events of last weekend in Toronto still weighing very heavily on my mind. I was listening to some of the spin being offered by Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair yesterday on CFRB as he was being interviewed by the host, failed politician John Tory. Mr. Tory presented him with questions that, on one level seemed reasonable enough, but upon hearing Bill Blair's responses, I realized were only props to offer the Chief a platform from which he uttered his too pat explanations for the actions of his police as well as his failure to inform the public of the 'fact' that the sweeping powers he allegedly requested months earlier from the MCGuinty Government did not exist. (The latter was explained by telling the audience that he was too busy with protesters to set the record straight.)

As well, interestingly enough, at least in the 45 minutes of the show I heard, no mention was made of the failure of the McGuinty Government to inform the public of the 'truth' about the 5 metre rule.

Incidently, it is now Day 6 since Premiere McGuinty has been heard from, apparently in too many meetings to be able to spend a moment to address some very troubling questions. Or is he hoping that the public has an extraordinarily short attention span and that all will be forgotten by next week?

This morning I read the Globe and Mail's Facts and Arguments page, which offers an eyewitness account of the police storming the peaceful assembly of citizens outside of the detention centre where so many protesters, none of whom were Black Bloc anarchists as far as I know, were being held after having had their Charter Rights violated.

Here is the the essay:

Swept from a peaceful protest

It was like a Sunday school picnic outside the G20 detention centre. Then police officers stormed the crowd of protesters. There was smoke and sounds of shooting

Cinders McLeod

From Thursday's Globe and Mail Published on Wednesday, Jun. 30, 2010 6:05PM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, Jun. 30, 2010 6:27PM EDT

It was a slow start to the day. My teenaged son and daughter turned on the television to find that the number of G20 protest-related arrests had risen to 400 from 70 since the Saturday night before.

Craig Kielburger of Me to We and Free the Children fame was interviewing a young woman who was joining a march to the temporary detention centre in Toronto’s east end because her friend had been arrested the night before. My son Diarmid had wanted me to walk with him on Saturday, but it had been some time since I had marched.
I had gone on quite a few during the years I lived in London and Glasgow – including the infamous poll tax march of 1990. I still had my yellow “The Enemy Within” button from the Thatcher days. (My community took ironic possession of her insult). So I knew the spirit wasn’t completely lost. We had spent most of Saturday in front of the TV. Now Diarmid and Anya were asking me if we could join the group at the detention centre.

I had watched that centre grow over the past few months – watched them bring in the concrete ramparts and fencing and witnessed the growing police presence. It was a menacing landmark in my Toronto neighbourhood, and I didn’t feel good about it from the start. I didn’t feel good about the swell of arrests overnight. And I didn’t feel good about teaching my children that we should just sit and let the world be interpreted to us by TV. Did good citizens stay home and mimic the broadcasters or endeavour to find the truth out for themselves?

I thought since the detention centre was local and far away from the G20 security zone, it would be a gentle introduction into the peaceful art of protest. I cared for the community, I cared for the people who were unjustly detained and I cared that my children cared too.

So we got together a knapsack with water and cameras and walked the 15 minutes to the detention centre. My partner David was going to walk our puppy first, then join us.

It was warm and we were chatty as we walked to be part of something. When we arrived, we stood back from the small crowd. Some were sitting, some standing, all facing the police lined up in front of the detention centre. Some were singing, some chanting, some drawing birds in chalk on the pavement. There were young folk, folk my age, folk with dogs, folk with children on their shoulders, older folk and media.
I think there were three releases from the prison in the hour we were there. Every time someone was released, the crowd cheered and the media swarmed. It reminded me of the Sunday school picnic feeling that existed in Trafalgar Square before the horses stormed 20 years ago.

I should have listened to my parallel thinking, for with no warning, there was a sudden penetration and retreat in the crowd. The police had moved in for a couple of arrests.

I called Diarmid and Anya in closer. David was there now. He was our anchor as we moved in and out to take pictures. Tensions eased a little.

Then, without warning, police officers stormed the peaceful crowd, swinging their sticks and throwing people to the ground.

I saw Anya being pushed by one of the group of police. I screamed out her name. They threw the young man next to her to the ground. Diarmid ran toward the skirmish just as a kind boy pulled Anya out of the policemen’s path. She looked so thin and vulnerable and 14 in her short shorts beside the black, violent swarm.
The front line of protesters sat down again, hands held in the air in peace signs, chanting, “We are peaceful, how ’bout you.”

Someone called out to take care because a line of police officers was approaching from the other end of the street. I had just enough time to take in the notion that we were surrounded when a line of riot police moved in on the crowd. There was smoke and sounds of shooting. Diarmid and Anya ran to us and we all turned to run down a side alley. I felt a punch on my back and calmly thought, “Oh, that’s what a rubber bullet feels like.”

We found our way to the nearest street and headed for home. Diarmid and Anya walked side by side, all sibling rivalry forgotten. They now had a common enemy: injustice. They knew the police had a job to do, but what they had witnessed wasn’t it.

There were three haunting moments for me. One was seeing a young girl being slung to the ground and then forced, skinny limbs everywhere, into an unmarked police van. Another was seeing my daughter stand beside danger. That moment will never leave me. And the last was seeing people walking up the street, hands above their heads in surrender as if they had committed some terrible crime. Walking? Talking? Caring? We didn’t commit the criminal act, unless the laws have secretly changed overnight and the powers that be have neglected to inform us of those changes too.

Once home, we downloaded our photos, posted them online and listened to the news tell us what we knew not to be true (that there were no rubber bullets fired). Anya was on the phone to a local news station wanting to tell her story, but she never got through. I understand why it was so important to her, for the same reason I wrote this.

We tell our stories to regain our sense of self and our sense of our rights after they have been so brutally, and without warning, taken away from us. We tell them to protect the values we feel are Canadian. To serve and protect. Whom? What? O Canada, we stand on guard for thee. Tell me: Who are the guards of Canada?

Cinders McLeod is a design editor at The Globe and Mail and lives in Toronto.