Fifteen months after the tumultuous G20 summit in Toronto, the preliminary inquiry for 17 people accused of conspiring to disrupt it has begun in the city’s north end.
The hearing before Mr. Justice Gerald Lapkin of the Ontario Court of Justice will determine whether there is sufficient evidence to commit the 10 men and seven women to trial, and is scheduled to last about 11 weeks.
Amid tight security, the 17 defendants and a group of supporters filed into the big Finch Avenue West courtroom shortly before 10 a.m. Monday and took their seats along the west wall. All but one of the accused, who for now is representing himself, have lawyers.
After some procedural issues were dealt with, lead prosecutor Jason Miller began summarizing the Crown’s evidence, which was placed under the usual pre-trial publication ban.
Most of the 17 defendants are in their early 20s and are variously accused of conspiring to commit mischief, obstruct police, resist arrest and with counselling to assault police.
All have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which are being prosecuted by a team of lawyers attached to the Toronto Police Service’s Gun and Gangs task force.
One by one each accused told the court that in the event the charges do go to trial, they want to be tried by a judge and jury.
Mr. Miller told Judge Lapkin the Crown will be proceeding by indictment, rather than treating the charges as summary (less serious) offences.
Most of the 17 were arrested a few hours before the two-day meeting of world leaders began on June 26, 2010.
Protected by a formidable security fence and thousands of police, the summit at the Metro Convention Centre in the downtown core proceeded without a hitch. But out in the streets, a wave of unrest rocked parts of the city centre.
Several police cruisers were set on fire and left to burn, and after a lengthy pause, the police moved in and began arresting more than 1,100 people – the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. Most were picked up on Sunday, the second day of the summit, and many were detained in the evening, after the summit was over, stirring widespread criticism that the police over-reacted.
Of those roughly 1,100 people, only 317 were charged criminally, and about 60 per cent saw the charges eventually withdrawn.
The 17 men and women now before the courts are all free on bail under various conditions and most were cheerful as they arrived, departed and briefly addressed the court.
Two of the defendants – 30-year-old Alex Hundert and Amanda Hiscocks, 37 – are under what they view as particularly severe restrictions, including a prohibition on taking part in any public demonstrations. When Mr. Hundert participated in a Ryerson University panel discussion last September, he was deemed to have violated his bail conditions and was rearrested.
As well, restrictions were placed on his ability to communicate with co-accused Leah Henderson, to whom he was engaged when they were both arrested.
A third bail condition – that Mr. Hundert not speak to the media – was later lifted.