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Family, friends of arrestees keep courthouse vigil Add to ...

Oscar Parra jumps to his feet from the painted metal bench he's sitting on at Toronto West Courthouse every time his cellphone rings. Mr. Parra and his wife, Sandra Bowen, haven't heard from their 28-year-old son since he was arrested outside the Eastern Avenue detention centre Sunday morning.

As soon as duty counsel called Mr. Parra and Ms. Bowen Sunday afternoon to let them know their son, Christopher, was in custody, they rushed to the courthouse, where all G20-related bail hearings take place.

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They waited until 9 p.m., when they were told nothing was going to happen until the next day.

It was 1 p.m. Monday when they finally found out he had been processed and would appear in court some time soon.

"It's total chaos," Ms. Bowen said. "I'm very anxious."

Lawyers, family and friends were told bail hearings would resume Monday at 9 a.m., but the courthouse emptied for lunch at 1 p.m. without a single accused appearing in any of the six courtrooms dedicated to G20 matters.

Toronto West Courthouse is a new courthouse located at Bloor Street West at Kipling Avenue.

Some people entertained their kids with toys and video games as they waited, while others pencilled in answers on crossword puzzles. One woman clutched a white bank envelope full of bail money for her boyfriend.

"We just keep waiting and waiting and waiting. That's all we can do," Ms. Bowen said.

So far, most people who have been arrested have appeared before a justice of the peace within 24 hours, said defence lawyer Ryan Clements, who is working pro-bono for about 15 people to help ease the workload on duty counsel.

"As the arrests increase, whether that can be sustained I don't know," Mr. Clements said.

No one appeared in court before 1 p.m. because no one was transported from the detention centre, he said.

"Certainly there have been long inexplicable delays," he said. "Whether we're going to be able to deal with things effectively in less time than we have in the day is an open question."

Mr. Clements is one of about 20 lawyers helping out at the courthouse, said duty counsel Clayton Blackbeard. A steady stream of harried staff filed in and out the door of the Legal Aid office at the courthouse Monday.

"We're used to dealing with high volumes," Mr. Blackbeard said.

Brenda McDonald hasn't heard from her son Chris, 19, since Sunday afternoon. Duty counsel called her early Monday morning to tell her he had been arrested.

"I don't know where he is," Ms. McDonald said. If she still doesn't know his status by 9 pm. courthouse closing, she plans on sitting outside the Eastern Avenue detention centre until someone tells her, she said.

"I can't be home having a cup of tea if I don't know where he is," Ms. McDonald said.

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