Civil liberties in Toronto's streets

Police, politicians, protesters and civil libertarians debate legal issues around what happened in Toronto on G8/G20 weekend.
Two activists kiss while protesting in front of a line of riot police during the G20 Summit in Toronto on June 26. ((Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press))

The protests in Toronto during the G20 summit weekend led to the arrests of about 900 people, a Canadian record.

The Toronto Police Service and the federal Integrated Security Unit defend the police actions, as do Toronto's mayor and the head of its police services board.

Human rights groups like the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and Amnesty International are critical of police actions during the weekend.

Below is a brief sampling of the debate, with more in the CBC audio and video links on the right. 

On Wednesday, June 30, at 12:30 p.m. ET, will hold a chat about the legal issues around the G20 protests.


Amnesty International Canada

Amnesty International Canada has called for a review of the security measures introduced at the G20 summit in Toronto. The group said the heavy police and security presence dampened the spirit of debate, discussion and civic expression.

"Lessons must be learned from these events. We call on the Canadian government and the government of the province of Ontario to co-operate in launching an independent review of the security measures that were put in place for the G8 and G20 summits. The review should include opportunities for public input and the results should be released to the public. Among other issues, the review should consider:

• The impact of security measures, including decisions about the location and venues for the two summits, on the protection of human rights, including the freedoms of expression and assembly.

• The ways in which police operations and the use of legal provisions such as the Public Works Protection Act have impacted the rights of the many thousands of people living, working and operating businesses within and near the G20 security zone."

Canadian Civil Liberties Association

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association on Tuesday released its preliminary report on G20 security, titled "A Breach of Peace." The CCLA says over the course of the weekend, detained people were not allowed to speak to a lawyer or family members. They also said people were subjected to arbitrary searches and peaceful protest were broken up with force. The CCLA has also called for a review of public order policing in Canada. They particularly ask for:


Toronto police Chief Bill Blair

Toronto police Chief Bill Blair responds to questions from journalists during a press conference at police headquarters in Toronto on June 29. Blair has set up a police task force to review law enforcement actions during the summit, which he calls outstanding. ((Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press))

"The Toronto Police Service and all of our partners in the Integrated Security Unit have vowed to protect people's rights to protest lawfully and peacefully. Throughout last week, we demonstrated our commitment to do just that. And even on Saturday, knowing that many of these criminals had infiltrated an otherwise lawful peaceful protest.

"We acted to facilitate the rights of all citizens to be heard, the rights of all citizens to speak out on issues of concern. But we also know that some people came to Toronto not to protest around a specific issue or to advocate for any change. They came to attack our city. They came to attack the summit. They came to commit crimes. And to victimize the people of the city."

"That group of people were asked on Friday if they would denounce the use of violence in these demonstrations, and they refused to do that. They embraced a euphemism they call the diversity of tactics. That is their diversity of tactics. The destruction on Yonge Street and Queen Street on Saturday is their diversity of tactics. Black Bloc tactic. The fact that they would surround this group fully knowing that they were present in that group demonstrates their complicity in the criminal conspiracy that was taking place in our city over the past weekend. "

(Press conference, June 29, 2010)

Alphonse MacNeil, head of the Integrated Security Unit

"The operation was intended to get the city back under control, locate the people of the Black Bloc that caused those problems, and it takes time."

(CBC News: The National, June 28, 2010 )