Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hurrah for the Canadian Coalition for the Defence of Civil Liberties

While I disagree with some of the nuances in its 8-point proposal for reform, I am in full agreement with the spirit of what the Canadian Coalition for the Defence of Civil Liberties is proposing: it is 100% behind our Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Geneva Convention.  I fully see founder Justin Beach's point that new laws to limit our civil rights (or law enforcements practices outside the law!) justified by anti-democratic politicians by invoking frightening Security Threats, can have the effect of taking away the very thing they supposedly want to protect: our cherished freedoms.

I believe that the majority of Canadians are simply not thinking about these dangerous consequences to their own freedoms when they loudly proclaim their support for 'get tough' practices that go outside the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Geneva Convention.  It's like we have asked ourselves: "Where do I sigh up to be most patriotic?", and generally came to the conclusion that harsh medicine dished out instantly to law-breakers and anyone near them is just what a patriot would support.  What about cries for the “Civil rights” of these law breakers and the people who were nearby while they did their damage?   Right now, these patriots only hear such concerns as wussy, weasely, whining.  They are just glad that the people they perceive to be have been caught red-handed causing chaos and busting stuff got taught a lesson.  They haven't really thought about and don’t want to be troubled by “rights talk”.  Their belief is that, in responding this way, they are being Hard Liners in the fight for What is Right, taking an uncompromising and righteous stand against forces of evil and chaos. 

What they haven't seen yet is how their stand actually plays into the hands of those enemies of our envied freedoms (AL Qaeda etc), who would deny us those freedoms, who would love to see us live in fear and act out of fear.  Yes, the bad guys win when:
  • we applaud our government as it effectively suspends the civil rights of Joe Canadian,
  • if it were to make any Joe's email and phone calls, bank account fair game for secret tracking without a warrant (as the US did with the Patriot Act)
  • if it were make it possible to search or detain any Joe without any legal reason (as it did at the G20). 

Joe Canadian hasn't yet realized that rights are indivisible, either everyone has them, or no one has them.  That means him or her (I know a few women named Joe).  "Yes, suspend my Legal Rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, please!  I insist!"  This is what it actually means to be unconcerned about the rights of some "stupid protesters" you might detest or just not like.  Joe might be a busy man or woman, but he is not stupid.  When he or she takes the time to follow the bouncing ball on this point, and realizes what is at stake ...he and she are both going to insist that Rights remain Rights.  

Thanks to the Canadian Coalition for the Defence of Civil Liberties and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association for taking the stands they have, bringing the real significance of these vital issues to the attention of Canadians.  The "Joes" who have got the Harper and McGuity governments' number now are a minority, but they are growing.  I am confident that when Canadians really have had a chance to think the issues through, and in their admirable desire to be uncompromisingly behind What is Right, they will insist on a full public inquiry into the rights violations during G20 policing (along with the massive over spending, and decision to plunk it downtown in our biggest city).  

Later they'll have the chance to vote in a Federal election.  Parties will align themselves with our cherished rights and Canadian way, or Joe Canadian will throw them out.  We'll stand up against the fear that would make a fool of our forefathers (and foremothers!), and of the free and decent society we have gratefully inherited.  No we are not a perfect nation. We have progress to make.  We must and will not go backwards in standing up for the rights of the common man and woman.

We have to fight new, less easy to understand enemies than did the WWII generation. These enemies are Fear-Inspired, Malignant Ideas (not the people who are seduced by them, thinking the population actually want a less free society).  The enemy is the Bad Idea that in the name of security we should weaken our protected individual freedoms, consent to invasive government spying on anyone, and allow police forces to ignore Charter Rights . We fight these ideas by remaining unflinchingly committed to decency, *unflinchingly committed to our freedoms as guaranteed by the Rule of Law*, unflinchingly committed to civil and human rights for all. No compromise.  And yes, no one should be above our laws, including the people we elect, or hire to enforce the law.  THAT is the Canadian Way.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Letter to Michael Ignatieff - Be a Champion of Civil Rights

Mr. Ignatieff (if you do ever see this),

I am writing as single, very much unimportant, Canadian. I believe I speak on behalf of a minority of Canadians, who are traumatized by the way that civil rights and due legal process were violated by law enforcement at the G20.  Almost none of them are sympathetic with the few vandals who broke and burned things at the G20.  Not sympathetic unless you would count us to be such for our expectation that our hallowed and civilized legal system should handle these accused in the exemplary way we expect it should handle anyone accused of a crime or a misdemeanor.

This minority is profoundly shocked by the appearance that to you, to Jack Layton, and to the Government in power - there is no shock or dismay, there has been no sharp, loud repudiation of the illegal actions of police in handling protesters at the G20.  To us, it feels like our Country has lost its honour. This is so dear a thing for us to loose faith in that we are all just reeling.  Even in so trivial a matter (trivial compared to the 9/11 bombings, the mayhem we sometimes see on the news from in foreign countries), you and every other leader, by your silence on the violations which occurred, appear to support these completely unacceptable policing actions.

I am even more worried about the great majority of Canadians who are angry at protesters, and don't for a minute think it a matter for their concern that important legal rights were violated by police.  Besides a tiny number of the truly black-hearted, I can't believe they have given real reflective thought to what is at stake if civil rights and due legal process can be suspended without concern for a small group of ordinary Canadians like this, even if their political views are disdained by the majority. 

I feel quite certain that you are one of this minority who are appalled at police actions at the G20.  You're too smart, to Canadian in the sense we once had a reputation for being, and too good a student of history.

You undoubtedly are aware of the sentiments of the Canadian public.  There are great other issues of major import to which you are deeply committed.  To come out swinging on this issue would diminish your opportunity to win the next election, and then make progress on these other issues.  

I hope you will say "To Hell!" with the voices of those advisors who want you to articulate only those positions which poll high numbers. Coming out powerfully on this issue, it is *possible* that you will prove yourself human, courageous, a man of principle. You can articulate the deep values embodied in our system with courage and conviction.  The fact that it may cost you the leadership of the Liberal Party to do so only underlies your political manhood.  There now appear to be no men in politics with cojones, and I am sorry to say on this issue, including you.  This is the kind of leader I want as Prime Minister of Canada, and which you can be. 

Please trust your convictions, sir!  If you do, you'll have my backing (sorry, I wish that was worth more!) when it comes time for the next election.  If you lose, you go down on a very important principle.  You can defeat Harper on this principle - it is joined at its heart to the Afghan detainee issue, the proroguing issue, and others.  It is worth fighting worth fighting for.  Please defend our belief in Canada as a country of decent people. 


David de Weerdt
Kitchener, Ontario

Friday, July 23, 2010

Hmmm... The "Civil" in Civil Society, and the Emerging Social Web

I read open source leader Ben Werdmuller's blog post Blowing up Markets this morning, and have to thank him for making the connection for me between my passion for civil rights in the "real world", and my daily work with my team in creating a new social web platform.

I feel a blog post coming on about civil rights. privacy, and the emerging real human Metaverse on the web.  Thanks, Ben.  Thanks to Twitter and the Net for making it possible for me to find and be inspired by someone like Ben Wermuller. 

[What follows is an excerpt from....]

Blowing up markets

Ben Werdmuller — July 6, 2010

Power to the people
We’re going to be seeing a lot more of this, in all kinds of market sectors. We’re already seeing ridesharing sites become popular, for example, blowing up the market previously owned by taxicabs and making it available to anyone who happens to be driving somewhere. Effectively this formalizes hitchhiking, making it both safer and more efficient.

It all comes down to one simple rule: People want to be free.

The Internet is opinionated: as a medium, it inherently works to empower people and eliminate hierarchies in society. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the most popular Internet companies hail from California; their philosophies are direct descendents of the civil rights activism that took place there in the sixties and seventies. In many cases, it’s even the same people. (Or – and here I put up my hand as the son of Berkeley “radicals” – their children.)

Gatekeepers – companies, structures or processes that act as exclusive barriers or filters – are not long for this world. Where gatekeepers exist, they do so because the alternative was inconvenient at the time when the gatekeeper became established – not because they’re inherently better than an empowered population. Those organizations, companies, and even governments, need to look at themselves very carefully and figure out what needs to be changed, before those things are changed for them.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Reply to Harry Glasbeek's incendiary G8/G20 exegesis

In reply to: "G8/G20 Toronto: Observations, Questions, Opinions" by Harry Glasbeek

Professor Glasbeek, I'll dare to make comment on what is obviously the writing of a great intellect, much practiced in rhetoric. 

I suggest that you have driven your argument to a conclusion that will never gain the support of the majority of Canadians, short of a revolution. Perhaps you think that would be a good thing? 

You make a shrill claim to have identified Evil in shadowy corporate masters behind the political scene, your writing is full of both righteous rage and sinister implication. To the extent your exegesis is adopted as Gospel by those calling for a Public Inquiry, the chances that one will be called will be reduced. Bad things happened at the G20. I decry them, and am giving my all to see them redressed. There is absolutely no reason to pitch this as a battle with global Evil-Doers. 

A smart cynic, equally well-trained as you in the art of rhetoric, might well draft a nearly identical argument to support a claim that the sad outcomes of protesting events of the G20 in Toronto were driven in fact driven by crafty anti-capitalist, anti-state ideologists like yourself, concluding they did so order to provide excuse/ justification, and fuel, for an ‘ominous’ anarchistic movement. Oh, not another Evil-Doers group for the Far Right to raise a rallying cry against. 

To get support for a war, first we have to demonize a group of people – make them barely human, heap the sins of the world upon them. You’ve taken a step in that direction, Professor Glassbeek.

I see no need to invoke evil-doer Bogeymen to explain what went wrong at the G20. The Bogeyman is a myth. As a child, I and my friends imagined some of the older town drunks were Bogeymen. We didn’t know them, and I suppose we had to find someone to project our idea of the Evil That Lurks at The Heart of Man onto, beyond the comic villains we read about. Now I have some old drunks for friends. I don’t believe in the Bogeyman anymore. 

Here is an alternate explanation (a pure guess) of why things happened the way they did. 

Police and Security services have Bogeymen too, only theirs are Bader Meinhoff / Al Qaeida – and like organizations. In the lead up to the G20, they settled their G20 security fears upon a group of Canadian granola-eating, anti-capitalist, self-identified anarchists. They’re not hard to find. On a recent sunny Sunday in the local park, I ran into the very group that has been connected with the “Black Bloc” at my local Non-Violence Festival. They had a table of books about anarchy out, and a few pamphlets. I have some friends who are their friends. They are young, very sincere, idealists who want to solve the world’s problems and make a better world.

Some of this group’s members spout rhetoric (easily found on the web) which is reminiscent of groups in other times and places that have become violent, and had started planning to make a scene at the July 2010 G20 years before it arrived. They became the ‘enemy’, and police secretly prepared for battle. I suspect the organization of G20 security was left almost entirely to police, many of whom I believe are culturally predisposed to view young idealists like these as dangerous forces working against our established civil society. Like you pointed out, it’s not un-similar to the time when police forces were entirely white: visible minority groups were profiled. It happens still, I know. This time however, there was a “rabble” profile: all protesters were shaded with a Dangerous Anarchist tint. Girded for battle, officers and their commanders thought they dare not differentiate – the sea of increasingly agitated people on the other side of their lines all looked like troublemakers to them.

Their mindset, developed over many months watching and worrying about the small unsophisticated, (misguidedly) idealistic group of “Black Bloc” anarchists, the mental gulf widened and widened leading up to the G20. By the time it arrived, fears and expectations of a violent clash were at a height. Police prepared for ‘war’, and got a budget big enough to battle an armed force of thousands. They told their political masters that they had evidence of armed anarchists secretly preparing to blow things up; likely did have some factual evidence to support this. In this mindset, here was no way they were able connect with the many and various non-violent non-anarchist grandmothers, fathers, daughters and sons who showed up with their hundred different messages, confident they would be peacefully let to protest. There was a mindset gulf as wide as an ocean between them and protesters.

Yes, it was a sad two days for democracy in Canada. I will, however, have none of your corporate bosses+political ‘rulers’ conspiracy thinking. NOR will I have the lame excuses from unthinking pols or citizens who overlook the disregard for civil rights and legal due process that took place in Toronto, as police fought citizens, thinking all potentially in league with a few skinny young anti-corporate anarchist-idealists who chose the excitement of the ‘violence tactic’ to battle their Bogeyman. 

Our Common Law and our Constitution may not be perfect, but I believe is the best system of rules for a civil society there is anywhere. It always will need defending; it will always need improving. I am defending it by calling for a Public Inquiry into what occurred at the G20, which especially must examine the unlawful search and seizures, the unlawful detentions, the conditions of detention, the physical assaults by some police officers, and the like. 

I expect those responsible for breaking our laws at the G20, whether they be police or vandals, or those that directed either with intent to cause others perform illegal actions, to be fairly tried, and if found guilty, punished according to our laws.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Letter to a supporter of the call for Public Inquiry into G20 Law Enforcement

July 21, 2010 

My friend, you are welcome. As I said, it feels like my duty as a true believer in the idea of Canada.
A couple of observations about the way the G20 law enforcement story has been portrayed generally:
The vast majority of Canadians believe we almost always have excellent law enforcement, and believe we live in the best country in the world.  I agree with them. Unfortunately, for most, this means that they will automatically dismiss information about any exceptional incident that challenges these beliefs. Many of those shocked by violations of civil rights and legal due process at the G20 in Toronto make the mistake of going way overboard in reaction – generalizing from this one (completely unacceptable) failure of leadership with hyperbole like “police state”, and suggestions of “conspiracy.” This just guarantees that most Canadians will tune out.
We need to re-enforce the belief in Canada and its system of laws being the best in the world. You and I are standing up for them. Canadians must hear that is precisely *because* we hold these beliefs so dearly that we have the courage to admit to ourselves when there has been a failure, and take corrective action. No, it isn't a failure on the scale of Tien An Mien Square in 1989.  No one was killed. Still, it was a failure to maintain civil rights, and this makes it serious to us. Admitting this takes a little bravery whenever it happens, but boy, it will pay off: it keeps our vision of a truly civil society shining!
We don’t think about it often, but we spend a great deal of money and time in Canada to ensure that civil rights and legal rules of due process apply to *everyone* – people suspected of murder, grand theft, arson, child abuse, and yes, vandals who break windows, let alone peaceful protesters and people on their way home from work.
We should care intensely about our system that guarantees to any and all of these people that they will not be searched or detained without legal authority, and that they will have access to legal counsel if detained. You are allowed to protest in Canada – even if we don’t agree with anti-abortion protesters or anti-tax protesters, or any other kind, we ought to care deeply about their right to voice their opinions in public. Nor should we support police roughing up people they suspect, even of serious crimes, unless force is actually justified and necessary to make an arrest (which of course must have reasonable legal grounds). There cannot be exceptions or the Rule of Law is broken. These rules are there for everyone’s protection and we should, and do, cherish them.
This should not be construed as a debate between anarchist or lawless radicals and mainstream society (as, unfortunately, it often is). This should be an argument between society’s true believers in the high standard of Canadian justice and someone in political leadership that *directed* law enforcement to break Our civil liberty and due process laws. This is a “motherhood issue” if communicated properly.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Letter to a friend on the other side of the G20 policing issue.

I sent this letter to a friend who said he had almost no concern about the way law enforcement handled protesters at the G20.  He is a man of the world, and has been present when security forces in other countries used lethal force to quell citizen protests. In his eyes, the tempest about alleged police violations of civil rights and due process at the G20 is unnecessary and even adorably naive.  

July 15, 2010

My friend,

I understand that, especially for someone like yourself who has seen truly repressive regimes in action, on the abuse of rights scale, the G20 law enforcement action hardly rates as a concern (comparatively speaking).  I completely agree with you on that, which is the main point you made in your reply to my letter of concern over G20 policing.

I might be even more of a law and order guy than you are.  For me, even a little domestic abuse (just a head butt maybe), a little crime (bricking a shop window maybe), a little twisting of civil rights or legal due process (using unnecessary force to arrest, search without legal grounds, arrest without legal grounds, or imprisonment without access to legal counsel)... is unacceptable.

I think we actually would be completely in agreement, if you were looking at G20 events from this same angle.  

Personally, I would never have gone to protest there.  I agree that G20/G8 leaders should meet, think Toronto should have been a fine place to meet, and have little in common ideologically with most of the protesters who showed up. I'm a long-time fan of Canada - something that goes deep in the family back to my Great Uncle Charlie who was an MP and backer of Laurier, and my father, who was a member of the Canadian Judicial Council for ten years, prosecuted Clifford Olsen, Chinese Triads, Columbia Drug lords....  My father was however, not a "anything the police do in Canada is fine with me" kind of guy, as a judge.  He held a *very high standard* for conduct by our police forces, and on more than one occasion, corrected their mistakes and brought them into line with our very high Canadian standards.

Those are the standards I believe in, and I think, the ones that you and every Canadian believes in and counts on.  What happened at the G20 is in no way equal in degree of wrongness to what happened in Tien An Mien Square in June 1989.  Or in comparison to the other incidents you witnessed personally.  Just because it doesn't rank on the scale of world-wide wrongs done by a state to their own people, doesn't mean that it shouldn't concern us.  You said: "and brother I can say full well I am proud and thankful at our countries naivety and our child like reaction to real world security..."  Yes.  That's it.  We are concerned when things go (comparatively) 'a little' is a lot wrong to us.  So long as it stays that way, we'll continue to be the freest country in the world.  



Thursday, July 15, 2010

I've become political again

I'm not a perennial attendee at City Council meetings.  I haven't gone to a meeting held by a political party in 20 years.  Every so often, an issue comes along that penetrates my otherwise thick hide, and I feel compelled to act.  The abrogation of civil rights at the G20 is one of those issues.

In 1992, the last time I was involved in politics, I was chairman of the Yes Committee in London, Ontario.  Our London committee had a membership composed of members of all national political parties represented then in the House of Commons. It's a long story, how I came to be Chairman...I wasn't a member of any political party then.  London voted "Yes", Yes carried across Canada, and we held together as a nation.

Before that, I had been Executive Director of "Together for Canada - London", a national citizen-citizen communication push to address the alienation of Quebecers from the rest of Canada. Joe Clark and Peter Lougheed started it; I admired what they were doing, and volunteered to get a London chapter going.

Before that, it was the (1st) Persian Gulf War.  Once Canada had declared war on Iraq, I worried about Canadians of Iraqi origin in London...would their experience be in any way similar to the experience of Japanese Canadians and German Canadians in WWII?  To be sure it wasn't, I formed the London War Response Committee with friend Dr. Bhooma Bhayana.  Our mission was to facilitate communication between the various most affected groups in our community, addressing whatever issues might arise.  There were many -and absolutely not just for Iraqi families.  Leaders in the City, School Boards, Arab and Jewish organizations, the Muslim Mosque, the Canadian Military, all the mainline Christian denominations, and others (35 in all) each did their best to maintain community harmony, and it worked.

Before that it was Tien An Mien Square, in June of 1989.  I was a magazine publisher then, and a part-time student at The University of Western Ontario.  Seeing that brave, anonymous man step out in front of a tank and stay there...that tipped me over the edge - I had to do something, it felt my duty as a human being.  With a group including Amnesty International, the local chapter of Chinese Canadian National Council, and other UWO students, we organized a rally drawing 2000 people in calling for the killing to stop, supporting the students' human rights.  We were happy we got TV coverage across Canada  and in some other countries of the world.  Again we had all the national parties in Canada participate.  Yves Leger, our U.N representatives, na d Joe Clark, then Foreign Minister, wrote us letters read to the crowd.  Students from Beijing spoke, politicians...a folk musician played Give Peace a Chance.

Before that...The Meech Lake Accord.  I went to bat as much as a 25 year old could for the people of the Northwest Territories, who as Canadians not of provincial status, had not been consulted in the backroom deal cooked up by the Mulroney government of the day to change our constitution.

When it comes to matters of decency, of fairness - of what is right - of human rights, I do not believe there is another nation of people in the world that is as stubborn and faithful to those ideals as average Canadians are.  We were tough combatants in WWII for a just cause.  It might take a little to awaken us to what's the matter - our lives are so comfortable.  We have it good here in Canada.

In recent years my hackles have been rising, but no, I've done nothing, said nothing, I've gone about my personal business.

I was disturbed by the recent prorogation of Parliament, clearly a way for the Harper government to avoid a growing storm of criticism over Canadian complicity in the torture of detainees in Afghanistan. I said and did nothing except grumble to a few friends.

I was disturbed by the refusal of our Government to bring Omar Khadr back from Guantanamo Bay to Canada for trial, as ordered by our Supreme Court. I joined a Facebook group supporting his return to Canada...but really, did nothing.

I was disheartened to have Canada the pariah at the Copenhagen Summit - the rich country dragging its heels the hardest to slow progressive steps toward reversing the dangerous momentum of Global Warming.  What do I really know about it I said...I'm not an expert...I'll keep to my own business.

Now, the scenes of the G20.  Here is how it looks to me: young protesters' civil rights were trampled, journalists were jailed and beaten, while vandals were let to run riot burning and breaking things.  Later protesters were dismissed as "rabble" as if suspension of their rights and abuse of them was of no concern.

No to me.  I grew up believing in human rights - believing that Canada stood for decency and fairness.  I remember when our Constitution was patriated, and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms created.  I was proud then, and believed the Charter truly represented and described us.  High or low though you may be, 'hippy rabble' or Westmount Golf and Country Club member, you are subject to and supported by the same Rule of Law.

No, we will not have civil rights suspended willy nilly, and come to think of it, we will not have Parliament prorogued to avoid public debate on a matter embarrassing to the Government, we will not turn a blind eye to or support torture, we will support our Supreme Court and the separate roles of The Government, Parliament and the Judiciary under the Queen.  This is not a partisan political opinion - a broad swath of card carrying Conservatives, Liberals, NDPers and Greens would all stand up and salute to the principles at stake here.  A weakness of resolve has entered our houses of Parliament - we must stiffen their spines.

I am mad as hell, and I am not going to take it any more.  Canada's reputation is stained. A 'stupidness' contagion appears to have been caught by some ill-advised members of the New Conservative movement in Canada.  Our Loyal Opposition, too, is in disarray. Ontarians have a meek "Chamberlain" in Queens Park who'll make deals to sell out democracy in secret.  Where are the Old Tories and Old Liberals I used to know, who would not for one minute tolerate this kind of un-Canadian policy?  On rights, the NDP still haven't changed their stripes.  We disagreed in the 80s and early 90s when I was involved in civic life, but were were all as Canadian as you can get when it came to our desire to do the right thing.

Harper's Tories must be called to account, and only the sleeping majority can do it, by waking up and calling Halt! to this slide downwards for democracy in Canada. Constitutional Rights are not just for a favoured few.

I am looking to find other Canadians I can join with in constructive action to ensure that our standard on civil rights remains the highest in the world.  I have no common cause with the lunatic fringe; responsible, caring Canadians - let's work together.

If you haven't done any research yet on what all the fuss is about, ask around.  There is real fire under all the smoke.

Monday, July 12, 2010

This letter sent to all MPs, Ontario MPPs and Toronto City Councillors

Sent via

My great uncle Charles McGrath served in parliament, a backer of Sir Wilfred Laurier.  My father retired as a Superior Court Judge - was a member of the Canadian Judicial Council for many years.   I grew up believing in Canada, and in Canadian Justice and Law Enforcement.

I am shocked and dismayed by the news stories, and accounts I have heard from people who were there, about policing at the G20 .  Protesters were in Toronto to bring their points of view, on matters important to them, to the attention of G20 leaders and through the media to other Canadians and citizens of the world.  According to the information I have been able to gather, it appears that essential legal freedoms were denied them and that police used excessive force and very often behaved in a manner beneath Canadian community standards of behaviour.

I support the Canadian Civil Liberties Association's (CCLA) call for:

(1.) An independent inquiry into the actions of the police during the G20, including:
- The dispersal of protestors at the designated demonstration site in Queen’s Park late afternoon, Saturday June 26, 2010;
- The detention and mass arrest on the Esplanade on the night of Saturday, June 26, 2010;
- The arrests and police actions outside the Eastern Ave. detention centre on the morning of Sunday, June 27, 2010;
- The prolonged detention and mass arrest of individuals at Queen St. W. and Spadina Ave. on the evening of Sunday, June 27, 2010;
- The conditions of detention at the Eastern Ave. detention centre.

(2.) Repeal or amendment of the Public Works Protection Act to meet basic constitutional standards; and

(3.) Law reform to ensure that the Criminal Code provisions relating to "breach of the peace", "unlawful assemblies" and "riots" are brought in line with constitutional standards.

Please take appropriate action.  To let the behaviour of police at the G20 summit go without  reproval leaves the impression that their conduct *meets the standard* of Canada law enforcement.  If so, this would a very sad day for Canada, and you will be complicit in supporting the erosion of public confidence in our legal system.

If there is no properly constituted full public inquiry as described above, one which is given the resources, time and support it needs to be effective, I will publicly return my Solicitor General's Award for Crime Prevention, and encourage other past recipients of this award to do so along with me.

David de Weerdt
67 Mill Street
Kitchener, Ontario
N2G 2Y2
Tel: 519-590-3830

Saturday, July 10, 2010

G20 Policing: an encounter with AW@L, a home to some who supported black bloc vandals

What might law enforcement been concerned about leading up to the G20?  The kind of young folk I met, quite ironically, at Kitchener's Non Violence Festival today.

Walking this afternoon through Victoria Park, with recent policing at the G20 in my mind, I entered the area dedicated by the City to the Non-Violence Festival, now already in progress.  I passed a Tibetan Buddhist group which has a mandala laid out on the ground through which people were invited to walk mindfully and quietly.  Next was Amnesty International, with petitions and letters to sign.  At another table, an Indian guru's photo was displayed, and nice man was handing out DVDs with his message of inner peace. The next table was a little harder to understand - I started a conversation with the young woman behind the table, which was covered with books and a few pamphlets.

I learned that they were from the Kitchener-Waterloo Community Centre for Social Justice and AW@L which defines itself as a community-based radical direct action group committed to solidarity and anti-oppressive organizing.   Seeing 'anarchy' in the title of many of the books spread on the table, I asked if the group renounced violence.  I got an evasive answer.  I asked again; I got a rationalization that everyone was violent or at least complicit in supporting violence, by purchasing consumer products made in violence-supported regimes.  I pointed out that they didn't belong at a Non Violence Festival if they could not affirm positively they were against the use of violence.

I wandered by their table again on my way home, after I'd done the rounds talking to people throughout the Festival area.  In that walk around, I'd encountered the event organizers, and pointed out the discrepancy between this group and their stated non-violence message.  They'd said they would look into it: every participant in the festival had signed a declaration saying they were against the use of violence.

At the AW@L table a last time, I found a group of perhaps 7 young people around it, and spoke to another young woman in the group who took the role of spokeswoman for the rest.  She also could not renounce the use of violence: "it's one tactic", she said.   "Would you have us exclude people who believe in that tactic?"  "Yes," I said, "at a non-violence festival, I'd expect you to advocate for non-violence, not violence sometimes, and sometimes non-violence."

I think to myself: it is more than likely that there are some associated with this group who would have cheered on "Black Bloc" vandals who went to the G20 with the aim of breaking things and setting fires, and God knows what else.  When I arrived back home, I Googled ("AW@L" +violence +"Black Bloc") and got articles which supported my intuition on this.  For example, in this article written by Adam Davidson Harden, he identifies one of the AW@L group who advocated violence at the G20 as one of his former students. "Diversity of tactics", I find, is code for "acceptance that violence is a legitimate means" of opposing Corporatism and the State.  Hey, that's an echo of my conversational frustration at the booth in the park.  Gee, I suppose the AW@L people I met on a lovely Saturday out in Victoria Park are connected with the (alleged) would-be bomber.

So, does this change my mind on how police responded to protesters at the G20?  In a word, no.

I am fully supportive of the police hunting down people who are planning violence (including harm to other people and damage to property), and fully supportive of their being arrested, charged and put through the legal process of the courts.   Canada has police, because they are necessary in a civil society.  Thank God for the men and women in uniform who apply the rules given by our legal system which has evolved since Magna Carta and well beyond, to express our social contract.  That's the system I feel very strongly about being upheld and protected.

If I can say that, what beef do I have with policing at the G20?  A diversion, then an answer.

I had an English class assignment when I was 10 years old: take one side in a school debate about the merits of capital punishment. I took the side against.  Canada's position.  One of the arguments against capital punishment is that a state applying capital punishment is saying the state can kill, but ordinary citizens cannot.  In other words (to the ears of an unstable person): it's OK to kill if you are justified.  Our civic authority must live by the same rules of conduct we expect from citizens.  No killing.  And no violence except in self-defence.  Police tactics at the G20 were often aggressively violent and indiscriminate (many innocent people were rounded up and treated the same rough way that legitimate suspects were treated).  Provoked by a reasonable expectation of rampant vandalism by black bloc kids, our police behaved in a way that looked like the 'police state' the AW@L kids think they live under.

I am supportive of allowing people to voice different opinions from me and most others in mainstream society.  G20 protesters went with many diverse points to make: support for the proposed billions for maternal health care in the 3rd world, disputing free trade, advocating for a free Palestine or open borders/immigration, pro or con abortion, for abolishment of interest rates, advocating that no child should go to school hungry, and on, and on... Even if someone is unbalanced enough to want to, attempt to, or actually to cause harm to other people or property (like some AW@L members), I want to see Decent Canadian law enforcement arrest them without punching, kicking or verbally abusing them; I want their right to legal representation supported, and all the rest of their legal rights respected.

I want protesters in Canada to be shown a civil society's response.  The RCMP were once an icon representing all that was right, just, fair and decent about Canada. They made me and every Canadian proud. At the G20, our response to Black Bloc vandals on the one hand or Raging Grannies on the other should have made us proud; police should embody our Canadian principles and our values, even (especially) under stress.

We Canadians are not at all threatened that a group of young anarchists believe there needs to be a New Order (theirs).  Let them stand on a street corner and shout and wave placards! Let them publish to the web, run webcasts, and hand out pamphlets.  If, however, they promote race hatred, plan or carry out the destruction of property or violence on any person or group, then let the law deal with them in its firm and fair our civil way.  This is a civil society.  I believe fervently in this; I believe almost every Canadian does just as much.  This is what we stand for at home, and want to stand for as Canadians in the world beyond our borders.  We must not let down this standard.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

G20 Policing: "The subject who is truly loyal to the Chief Magistrate will neither advise nor submit to arbitrary measures."


Does the Globe and Mail's masthead still remind we Canadians of this every day?

This blog post takes my writing in a different direction than I intended, but I did not feel the subject could be ignored.

A fundamental assumption I have as a Canadian is that I am free to express dissent to majority opinion. Should I be afraid to make this public statement? Is it ridiculous to get worked up that some young idealists were beaten and jailed for showing up with signs and flowers at the G20? If I have reason to be afraid for speaking up, I am more determined to do so. And if any Canadian should think it ridiculous to defend the rights of some "foolish young hippie types" beaten up by police - I am going to remind them of what we "stand on Guard" for here in Canada.

I am absolutely shocked that it would EVER be considered acceptable that police herd, physically beat, charge and imprison peaceful protesters. Then, as prisoners, not to provide them access to legal counsel! Not to mention that, in too much of the amateur video shot during G20 protesters, I see police showing contempt striding around threateningly. What happened to the honourable Canadian Mountie? Have thugs with badges, crude language and a 'beat down' impulse replaced them? They are front-line representatives of the Justice system to me. What happened to the country I have always been so quietly and fiercely proud of, so free and open, where we each confidently may publicly express our different opinions?

We MUST speak up and forcefully reprove these police actions; it is our duty as Canadian citizens. Police must know what is and is not acceptable for them to do according to community standards. Even though most Canadian would think it true that our police normally do adhere to our community standards of behaviour, when they do not, they must be held accountable. We have decided we will be a Decent people. No police action that falls below that standard should be ignored.

That police did have 'black bloc' vandals hiding in the crowd to catch and stop has *nothing* do do with how they treated the mass of young idealists. To catch the vandals, they'd have been better to have officers befriending and protecting protesters like they do for parades; they could have picked up vandals when they showed up one and two at a time. The property damage by these misguided 'anarchists' could have been prevented. Huge battle lines of police in riot gear as a first response is not a measured response. The crowds would have supported police apprehending the few people setting fires and breaking windows. These vandals ruined the opportunity for people with messages to give to news cameras and (hopefully for them) the G20 leaders.

To keep consistent with their defense of the G20 police actions, police should have a billion dollar force of police in riot gear and tanks out at every Stanley Cup final. Ridiculous.

While I felt no need to join the mostly young people expressing their dissenting opinions at the G20, I am shocked that, even for a moment, any patriotic Canadian would not absolutely defend their right make those opinions heard. Bloody hell, an international journalist was beaten, an amputee had an officer knee his head and had his artificial leg ripped off in Queen's Park while his daughter looked on in horror. Do a little research: there are many - far too many - shocking examples of similar police actions. This must not be let pass.

I want to see the Hon. Vic Toews, Canada's Public Safety Minister, repudiate the inappropriate actions of police during the G20 summit. Unless he does, I will be returning the national award for Crime Prevention I received from his predecessor in 1985 while a member of the Rotary Club. It is the honourable image of our national law enforcement agencies that Minister Toews will be protecting in doing this. Not to repudiate this unacceptable stain on the reputation and image of law enforcement in Canada is to say that these kinds of arbitrary arrests and limitations of freedom ARE acceptable in Canada. Never.