Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

RCMP has no policy for crowd 'kettling' used during G20, documents reveal

The RCMP, a key member of the Integrated Security Unit that policed Toronto's G20 summit, does not practice "kettling" - one of the more contentious tactics used by security forces during the June weekend, when hundreds of people were penned on a downtown corner for hours in the rain.

Toronto police chief Bill Blair later said that many people should probably not have been contained for that long, in such circumstances. That incident is now part of several attempts to bring class-action suits against police forces that participated in the G20 weekend.

But one of those police forces never trained its officers to employ kettling, documents given to The Globe indicate. Moreover, it is the RCMP stated policy "always" to give crowds a way out.

Story continues below advertisement

An access-to-information request filed by Murray Klippenstein, a lawyer behind one of the class-action suits now awaiting certification, revealed hundreds of pages of documents - including copies of powerpoint presentations - relating to crowd-control and use-of-force training the RCMP gives its officers.

A letter from the RCMP to Mr. Klippenstein reads, "a complete review of the RCMP Tactical Operational Manual and the Critical Incident Program documentation confirms that no RCMP policies, procedures or training materials make reference to the use of the kettling technique."

What is more, the letter says, "all tactical troops policies and related public order training materials clearly stipulate that crowds will always be afforded/provided with an escape route."

"The main characteristic of crowd control is to leave an opening so people can go, so you don't corner people," Normand Sirois, a reviewer and analyst with the RCMP's access-to-information division, said in an interview Tuesday. "If you do that, and you succeed in controlling the crowd, you don't … shut all exits or safe ways for the crowd to get away."

When pressed for details on why the RCMP has no kettling policy, spokeswoman Julie Gagnon said the practice "is just not part of our standard tactics and techniques."

It's not clear what kind of communication took place regarding different forces' crowd-control tactics leading up to or during the G20 weekend, during which more than 1,000 people were arrested.

But Mr. Klippenstein said the revelation is one more indication of the communications breakdown between disparate security forces working together that weekend.

Story continues below advertisement

"It shows conflict between the approaches of the police, and also that they didn't resolve them," he said.

If the leading police force in the unified police structure has a no-kettling practice, and yet massive kettling occurred, does that mean [the ISU]considered this and overrode the RCMP policy? Or did they just not consider it when they undertook this massive kettling?

"Did the reasons for the RCMP not adopting kettling suddenly not apply in Toronto? And does that make any sense?"

At the time, Toronto police Staff Superintendent Jeff McGuire said the kettling of apparently peaceful protesters was a necessary public-safety measure because police had seen several protesters in the black gear associated with Black Bloc members, who had smashed windows downtown the day before.

"Some weapons were found along the route," he said at the time.

Months later, Chief Blair told The Globe's editorial board that things probably should have happened differently that soggy afternoon.

Story continues below advertisement

"We probably could have and should have reacted quicker," he said in September. "When I became aware of [the ongoing containment] I said, 'That's it, release them all immediately and unconditionally,' and that was done. But it probably could have happened sooner."

Toronto Police spokesman George Christopoulos declined to say whether Toronto police have kettling protocol, and that such information would be released only after a freedom-of-information request.

(Mr. Klippenstein said he has filed a request with Toronto police but has not received a response)

A plethora of reviews into police conduct over the G20 weekend have emerged, in addition to at least two class-action suits awaiting certification.

Alan Young, of Osgoode Hall Law School lawyer, said it should not come as a surprise that certain police forces don't have policies on kettling, which has been used around the world - usually when police fear a dangerous element in a crowd.

"I don't find there's much policy direction given to police," he said. "A lot of policing is done on what I call crisis management: If a problem explodes publicly, then they address it."

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.