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.

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