RCMP used 'excessive force' at Quebec summit: report

RCMP used 'excessive force' to control crowds at Summit of Americas in Quebec City in 2001, says interim report of public watchdog group

Some RCMP officers were too aggressive with protesters at the Summit of the Americas conference in Quebec City 2 years ago, according to an interim report by a watchdog group.

Mounties did not give demonstrators enough warning before firing tear gas to break up a crowd, says the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. Several hours of videotape were reviewed as part of the investigation.

"RCMP members used excessive and unjustified force in releasing tear gas to move the protesters when a more measured response could have been attempted first," concludes Shirley Heafey, the group's chair.

She recommends officers be given better instructions for dealing with crowds, that action be taken against some Mounties, and that an apology be issued to demonstrators.

Her 15-page interim report has been forwarded to RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli, who will study it before sending a response to the public complaints body. Heafey will then issue a final report.

The complaint was launched by NDP MP Svend Robinson, who was one of the people hit by tear gas outside the Summit of the Americas in Quebec in April 2001. He also said he was hit in the leg with a rubber bullet, although Heafey was not able to confirm the allegation.

"This report is a damning indictment of the gross abuse of power by the RCMP 'O' Division tactical troop in attacking peaceful protesters in total contempt of the law and their own procedures," Robinson said in a statement.

"Such abuse of police power in a democracy is an outrage. In response to the initial RCMP whitewash of my complaint, the Commission has issued a powerful rebuke to the RCMP," the MP said. He encourages any protesters "illegally attacked" by the Mounties to sue.

Security was extremely tight at the summit. World leaders met behind a wall of concrete and wire. Most of the protesters outside were peaceful, although some pushed down part of the barricade and threw rocks and other objects at police.