Parliamentary committee recommends a full public inquiry for G20 security issues

By Anna Chen and Dan Blackwell

The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security released a report on security issues at the G8 and G20 summits that found unjustified violations of civil liberties, including the humiliation and treatment of those arrested. They recommend “a full, judicial, independent public enquiry… to investigate all levels of government, all decision making processes and all the events that occurred.”

“The most critical recommendations of the report is that there is no question, having heard the evidence that we heard over five days of hearing, that there must be a full, independent judicial inquiry with powers of subpoena,” said Committee Vice-Chair and NDP MP Don Davies when contacted on March 28, 2011.

The report, which was released the same day Parliament was dissolved in a no-confidence vote on March 25, 2011, found the accounts and reports of witnesses, protestors, media and civil society groups regarding the behaviour of security forces troubling. The Committee also referred to existing documents, including a February 2011 report by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the National Union of Public and General Employees, as well as reviews by government authorities.

1,105 individuals were arrested during the G20 summit, making it the largest mass arrest during peacetime Canada. The Committee found it “difficult to understand” certain police actions, such as the arrest of over 70 people sleeping in the University of Toronto gymnasium. All charges made in this arrest were later dropped.

It also “has difficulty understanding why a number of questions remain unanswered,” including why the police detained protestors, journalists and innocent bystanders using the ‘kettling’ technique and why they dispersed peaceful protestors. Testimonies from journalists who were detained and assaulted were collected by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and are available online.

The report states that “this evidence reminds us that the Government of Canada and agencies involved have lessons to learn from these events and that major changes must be made to the planning and implementation of security measures in keeping with similar events to prevent future violations of citizens’ rights…The Committee hopes that the citizens whose rights were not respected will be able to find hope in the recommendations made by our Committee to ensure that similar events never happen again in Canada.”

It also recommends that “the Government of Canada issue a formal and unconditional apology to the thousands of Canadians and visitors to Toronto who had their rights violated during the G20 summit.”

An earlier article in The Globe and Mail noted that all three opposition parties support a call for a public inquiry, but the Conservatives have resisted. They released a dissenting report criticizing the findings of the committee as “biased” and referring to the event as an “unmitigated success,” according to the CBC. CBC also reports that the Conservatives blocked a vote on a federal inquiry in July 2010.

“It was tabled in the House of Commons on Friday, the very last day that Parliament sat. Had [the opposition] not pushed to get the report then it would have just disappeared,” said Davies.