Image: Government of Canada website
In a letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, dated July 16, 2010, the British Columbia Library Association expressed "concern over the unprecedented curtailment of civil liberties that took place at the June 2010 meeting of the G20 in Toronto."
Numerous concerns are expressed which can be read in the pdf version of the full letter. A particular concern are the allegations that a number of journalists were arrested and detailed in the course of doing their jobs. "The media play a critical role in preserving democracy by bearing witness and documenting events."
Other concerns included the mass arrests of people who "appear to have been arrested while exercising their constitutionally protected rights to freedom of assembly, association, and expression; some were random, uninvolved passers-by." The BCLA concludes that if these arrests were carried out as a method of preventative detention, they have "infring[ed] on important Charter rights with respect to due process" and that the effect was that "many individuals felt unable, or afraid, to exercise these rights."
BCLA urges the Government of Ontario to review the impact of Ontario Regulation 233/10 on intellectual freedom, including the people’s right to express their intellectual position, and its impact on the media’s right to report multiple perspectives on major international events happening within Canada.
There are a number of areas the BCLA would like to see addressed in an inquiry including "the impact of security measures on the Charter rights of citizens to freedom of assembly, association, expression, and due process."
BCLA represents over 800 library staff from all types of libraries, predominantly public and academic libraries. One of the purposes of the Association is to promote and foster the role of libraries and library workers in British Columbia through advocacy, education and leadership. A key aspect of this purpose is to ensure that the role libraries play in policy issues, ranging from literacy to intellectual freedom to copyright to equitable access to information, is communicated to the appropriate level of government.
It will be interesting to see if other provinces' library associations follow suit.