Three hundred defendants charged with G20-related offences jammed a Toronto courthouse Monday in a day-long legal tidal wave that critics say highlights deep flaws in the summit's policing strategy.
More than 1,000 people were detained in Toronto during the June 25-27 meeting of world leaders, the largest mass arrests in Canadian history.
"What's amazing and extraordinary and questionable is that the scope of the mass arrests created a problem for the judicial system," said Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. "We suspect that many of the charges will be settled or abandoned, but it does raise significant issues about how this can be done while respecting constitutional rights."
Fire-code regulations permit only 176 people in the hallways of the Ontario Court of Justice at one time, so extra police were brought on to ensure the building didn't exceed capacity. The courthouse's legal-aid office added extra staff, including French-speakers, for the day to accommodate the many defendants from Quebec - two buses arrived from Montreal with approximately 50 defendants in each.
Brendan Crawley, a spokesperson for the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney-General, said that in consultation with the judiciary, "it was determined that it would be more efficient to have the majority of matters returned on the same day."
Some cases were dropped on Monday, including the charges against Natalie Gray, who was arrested outside the Eastern Avenue detention centre after being hit in the sternum and the elbow with two sub-lethal bullets, leaving lasting damage. She said she plans to sue. Others had their charges diverted after agreeing to donate money to a registered charity. Several people accused of being anarchist ringleaders, including Kelly Rose Pflug-Back, had their cases adjourned until September.
Mr. Crawley could not provide information on the number of charges dropped, diverted or adjourned on Monday.
Vincent Marzano, a 21-year-old philosophy student from the Université du Québec à Montréal, was a passenger on one of the buses from Montreal. He was charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence after being arrested along with 100 others during a police sting on a University of Toronto gymnasium, which had been billeted to non-local protesters.
Police allege Mr. Marzano was part of the black-clad, bandanna-disguised anarchists who trashed Toronto's downtown core on Saturday, June 26. He denies the charges, claiming he didn't witness Saturday's violence until he turned on the news, had never heard of his alleged co-conspirators before meeting some of them in jail, and that he doesn't even own a bandanna.
On Monday, he received a synopsis of the Crown's case against him and a summons to return to the Ontario Court of Justice on Finch Avenue on October 13. Appearing before the judge, Mr. Marzano asked why there was such a long gap between court dates and was told the Crown needed time to review hours of video evidence. Mr. Marzano objected outside the courtroom, saying the delays made it difficult to schedule the coming months.
Ms. Des Rosiers agreed, calling cases like Mr. Marzano's "inappropriate."
"In our view, the mistake is to have decided to charge people without having the chance to review whether there was enough evidence. They should have checked before they laid charges," she said.
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