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.”

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