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Police wearing full riot gear, walk north on Pape Ave., near the temporary G20/G8 detention centre in Toronto. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)
Police wearing full riot gear, walk north on Pape Ave., near the temporary G20/G8 detention centre in Toronto. (Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail)

Civil liberties group wants public probe in G20 police conduct Add to ...

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is calling for a public inquiry into police conduct over G20 weekend, as well as changes to the laws they used to beef up security and an apology to those claiming their civil liberties were trampled.

A report the CCLA released Tuesday says police conduct in relation to summit security was at times "disproportionate, arbitrary and excessive," said general counsel Nathalie DesRosiers. She added that while there are understandable challenges to policing a large-scale international summit, the violation of individual rights during summit policing "exceeded the threshold of a few isolated incidents" and included the lead-up to the summit itself. Police came under fire late last week for successfully applying to have Ontario's Public Works Protection Act apply to the area surrounding the summit security fence, allowing officers to arrest anyone refusing to provide identification in that vicinity. Such legislation, dating back to 1939, is esoteric in 2010 Toronto and ought to be changed, she argued.

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But the most worrisome incidents took place Saturday and Sunday, Ms. DesRosiers said. The report singles out the way police charged protesters at Queen's Park Saturday afternoon; the mass arrest of dozens of apparently peaceful demonstrators at the Novotel Hotel late Saturday night; the arrest of people demonstrating outside the Eastern Avenue detention centre Sunday morning; and the way police hemmed in about 200 people - protesters, reporters and passersby - for hours in the pouring rain Sunday evening.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair has come out swinging in defence of his force's conduct over the weekend, arguing it was measured and appropriate and that in between police and what he argued were potentially violent protesters were complicit by association.

The Toronto Police announced Tuesday morning they're conducting an internal investigation into police conduct during the summit; that's well and good, Ms. DesRosiers said, but she would prefer to see an independent inquiry into how things transpired.

Councillors and police board members Adam Vaughan and Pam McConnell passed a motion to ensure the report Chief Blair brings forward in July will be public and will allow for public deputations before the board, Mr. Vaughan said.

The CCLA report also takes issue with the Eastern Avenue film studio turned detention centre, where hundreds of people were detained. Many of the people held in the detention centre have alleged they spent hours waiting for food, water or a phone call from counsel.

Mark Donald, a human rights observer who was arrested with dozens of others outside the Novotel on Saturday night, said he saw a detention centre in vast disarray.

"To say the procedure at the detention centre was flawed would be too kind," he said. "It was chaotic."

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