Thursday, August 26, 2010

Taking it to the Streets at the G-20. C'mon Harper. It's Time to Explain Yourself.

As expected, most of the charges that came about when peaceful protesters were brutally arrested during the G-20 weekend from hell, were dropped. Proof that they were fabricated. As one protester claimed “I have a problem with the criminalization of dissent." And that's exactly what this was about.

This is a government that does not allow dissent. (One of the reasons why the group Rallying to Unseat Stephen Harper was formed)

And there is growing support for a full investigation, and demands that Stephen Harper and Dalton McGuinty explain themselves.
This winnowing process reflects well on Ontario Court, and its reluctance to criminalize dissent. But it does nothing to ease concerns about Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s unwisdom in holding the G20 in downtown Toronto, turning it into an armed camp of empty streets. Or Premier Dalton McGuinty’s decision to grant the police enhanced powers of arrest without properly informing the public. Or the police strategy that first let vandals run amok, then cracked down on non-violent protesters.
We deserve better than this.
What’s needed is a broad public inquiry by Ottawa or Queen’s Park into this wretched chain of events, from the Prime Minister’s fateful decision to turn Toronto into an armed camp, to police tactics that ranged from laissez-faire to abrupt mass arrests. We deserve a full accounting.
Thomas Walkom had an excellent column yesterday, that is well worth a read: The G20 protests and judicial farce
In some cases, hapless Crown prosecutors tried to cover their embarrassment by striking deals with the accused: Pay $50 or $100 to your favourite charity and we’ll forget the charges. In a standard court case, this tactic — a form of plea bargain — might make sense. But in this very political case, it’s hard not to suspect that the authorities were taking advantage of the fact that many charged without reason simply wanted the nightmare to end.

In effect, what occurred at the G20 was a massive and quite possibly illegal array of pre-emptive arrests. People were picked up and charged not because they were doing anything wrong — not even because they were about to do anything wrong. Rather they were arrested and charged because those in charge of the police found civil liberties inconvenient. Their thinking: If everyone who might conceivably cause trouble is put in jail, there can be no trouble. It is the totalitarian’s recipe for public order. Very China. Very Zimbabwe. Not very Canada.
Not Very Canada. Exactly. Protesting is not only about civil disobedience, but it is also about performing a civic duty. If we are not allowed to stand up for ourselves or others, how can we possibly believe that we are living in a democracy?

James William Fulbright once said "In a democracy dissent is an act of faith. Like medicine, the test of its value is not in its taste, but its effects."

"An act of faith" that we will not be beaten up and arrested for the simple act of disagreeing with our government. Canadians have now lost that faith. Only a full public inquiry will restore it.

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