The RCMP watchdog has launched a public-interest investigation into policing of the G8 and G20 meetings, the latest in a string of probes of violent summit clashes and mass arrests.
The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP said Friday it was acting on a complaint from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association about the conduct of Mounties involved with the joint international summits in Ontario last June.
Leaders of the G8 countries gathered in cottage country near Huntsville, Ont., before joining other politicians for the G20 summit in Toronto.
More than 1,000 people were arrested at the G20 meeting amid extensive damage to shops and cars in the city's downtown.
While municipal police officers carried out most of the front-line security duties, the RCMP was also a key player, particularly in planning and co-ordination.
The association complaint focuses on RCMP involvement in summit security planning, possible infiltration and surveillance of individuals or groups, the use of force, detentions and arrests during the summits, and conditions at Toronto's Eastern Avenue jail facilities.
Some protesters complained of police violence, threats and mistreatment while in custody.
It's important to examine the role of the national police force in the summits, said Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the civil liberties association.
"I think we have to recognize that the planning of the event and the planning of security, which was the responsibility of the RCMP, may have left something to be desired if it led to such violations," she said Friday.
"We did see some RCMP officers around town, particularly at some arrests where we were observers. They were not doing the arrests, but they were certainly there."
The complaints commission said the RCMP has provided "operational details and briefings" on Mountie activities during the events, adding the commission "looks forward to the RCMP's continuing co-operation."
The commission says it has also worked closely with Ontario's Office of the Independent Police Review Director to ensure that the respective federal and provincial police complaints bodies approach concerns seamlessly, and that the public has a "no wrong door" means of making complaints through either office.
To date, there have been 28 complaints about the RCMP's role in the summits.
"By instituting a public-interest investigation into CCLA's complaint, the commission will appoint its own independent civilian investigative team and will publicly report its findings and recommendations," the RCMP complaints commission said.
The Toronto police, the city's police services board, the Ontario ombudsman, the provincial government and a Commons committee are also examining aspects of summit policing.
The federal NDP, which pushed for parliamentary committee hearings, says a full public inquiry on summit security is still needed.
The six hours of committee sessions have proven overly partisan and don't give MPs the necessary time to explore the issues, NDP public safety critic Don Davies said Friday.
"We need days and days of testimony, not minutes."
Ms. Des Rosiers said while she's glad the RCMP complaints commission is investigating, a joint federal-provincial inquiry would result in a better overall assessment.
"We're left with a series of partial inquiries. At the end of the day, we will have to read them in parallel and identify whether, indeed, they were able to give us the right answers or not," she said.
"So we continue to think that the appropriate course of action for the federal government here would be to take leadership and institute a more general inquiry with Ontario so that there is no overlap."
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