Skip to main content

Editorials Officer behind G20 mass arrests held to account, but where was Bill Blair?

Toronto police surround and detain protesters and uninvolved bystanders in the downtown area during the G20 protests of 2010.

Sabrina Diemert

Justice delayed is better than no justice at all. But five years after Toronto's police force shamefully violated the rights of peaceful protesters and uninvolved bystanders during the much-lamented G20 summit, there is little satisfaction in knowing that a solitary senior officer has finally been found guilty of charges at a police disciplinary tribunal.

Supt. Mark Fenton ordered unlawful mass arrests in two incidents that still resonate as a disgraceful abuses of power – in one case blockading hundreds of citizens at a downtown intersection and forcing them to withstand a torrential downpour without a shred of evidence that they were a threat to public safety.

This pointless demonstration of police control, occurring as the summit ended, was in sharp contrast to the force's utter failure to contain the limited outbreaks of orchestrated violence earlier in the summit.

Story continues below advertisement

Supt. Fenton was unable or unwilling to distinguish between window-breaking vandals, chanting demonstrators and random passers-by – in his mind they all deserved to be treated with official contempt. Retired judge John Hamilton, who presided over the disciplinary hearing, rightly called him out for his abuse of authority.

"The decision to order mass arrests demonstrated a lack of understanding of the right to protest," Mr. Hamilton stated. "His use of power was not rationally connected to the purported risks to be managed."

Supt. Fenton, who supervised the G20 major-incident command centre, said he was following the orders of his superiors "to take back the streets." But Mr. Hamilton decided not to hear testimony from Bill Blair, Toronto's police chief during the G20 and now a federal Liberal candidate, for technical reasons related to the former chief's role in the running of the tribunal.

Supt. Fenton, who supervised the G20 major-incident command centre, said he was following the orders of his superiors "to take back the streets." But Mr. Hamilton decided not to hear testimony from Bill Blair, Toronto's police chief during the G20 and now a federal Liberal candidate, for technical reasons related to the former chief's role in the running of the tribunal.

Mr. Blair has never adequately accounted for the misbehaviours of his force during the G20. Ontario Ombudsman André Marin called it "the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history." It was a very bad day for the Toronto Police Service. There was a failure of leadership at the highest level. Whether he lost control of his officers or failed to properly oversee their poor decisions, Mr. Blair needs to revisit the lost weekend of 2010 and explain his force's performance. An election campaign is as good a place as any to demand answers.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. 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.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Cannabis pro newsletter