Monday, July 19, 2010

Free Expression at G20 Toronto

Photo: Government of Canada website

In the aftermath of the G20 Summit in Toronto, Canada, a number of people are calling for an independent inquiry into the actions that led up to the arrests of over 1,000 people. Well-respected human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have voiced concerns "about possible police excesses, including reports of journalists being arrested or constrained in the course of covering confrontations between police and demonstrators." Their voice is joined by many others who want answers to why "excessive acts of vandalism and other violence were carried out and on the other hand thousands of individuals felt nervous and uneasy about exercising their right to engage in peaceful protest." Read Human Rights in Canada for a full account of their position.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our Constitution, guarantees a number of rights that some people believe were violated during the G20 Summit.

  • freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication

  • freedom of peaceful assembly

  • Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

  • Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.

  • Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

  • Everyone has the right on arrest or detention

  • (a) to be informed promptly of the reasons therefor;
    (b) to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right; and
    (c) to have the validity of the detention determined by way of habeas corpus and to be released if the detention is not lawful.

Another group calling for an independent inquiry is Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)
CJFE calls upon the police to respond to questions from reporters about their treatment of journalists. Serious questions of public policy and civil liberties are raised by the number and diversity of reports of detainment and attacks against journalists. Merely urging individuals to file complaints about their treatment is an inadequate response from politically accountable security forces. We support the numerous calls for an inquiry into police tactics and security arrangements for the summit, conducted openly with its conclusions made public. Any such inquiry must include a thorough examination of police treatment of journalists covering the events.

There was a controversial use of the Public Works Protection Act which was passed without being put before legislature. Prior to the Summit, police believed that act gave them the power to search anyone within five meters of the security fence. It was later revealed that the regulation made under the Public Works Protection Act did NOT give police those kinds of search powers.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) said it was “extremely concerned” that the new measures violate constitutional safeguards. Read about the concerns of the CCLA which were expressed prior to the G20 summit. Following the G20 weekend, according to a National Post article, the Civil Liberties Association describe the G20 police force as “disproportionate, arbitrary and excessive."

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