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An anti-G20 protester flashes a peace sign near the temporary detention centre in Toronto on June 27, 2010. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
An anti-G20 protester flashes a peace sign near the temporary detention centre in Toronto on June 27, 2010. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Douglas Bell

Grits go AWOL on civil rights Add to ...

This morning's Ottawa Citizen features a sensible and temperate editorial critiquing the G20 security fiasco and its fallout.

"The mass arrests at the G20 protests in Toronto look no less excessive in hindsight. Indeed, as more charges are dropped, it becomes ever more clear that hundreds of people were arrested with absolutely no cause.

... Running roughshod over human rights is no way to provide security to Canadians. In fact, the police response to the Toronto G20 protest might set back the efforts by police forces, including in Ottawa, to gain the trust of peaceful anti-globalization protesters.

… If Canada is going to hold international summits in urban areas - a dubious idea in the first place, given the inevitability of protests - the federal and provincial governments must work together to make sure international guests, protesters and bystanders have nothing to fear. It doesn't matter how much the government spends on security if that security ultimately makes all Canadians less safe and less free."

Oddly this earnest straightforward caveat finds no expression in the annals of the nation's Official Opposition. In a letter to Vic Toews dated June 29th Mark Holland, the Liberal public safety critic, raises a series of concerns regarding G20 security - not one of which mentions violations of civil liberties.

To wit: "As Canadians now know, Prime Minister Harper made the decision to hold the G20 in downtown Toronto - a decision that led to exorbitant costs and a nearly impossible security situation for police."

The largest mass arrest of Canadians in history and the Grits primary concern is that the cops were overwhelmed. It would be as if Martin Luther King in his letters from the Birmingham jail wrote to Police Chief "Bull" Connor complaining about the stress he was putting on his department's German shepherds.

At a wintry moment in the history of Canadian civil rights, the Liberal Party is AWOL.

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