Monday, June 28, 2010

What a Weekend

This was quite the experience for me. I’d first like to give big thanks to CBC for allowing me to do this this week. This week saw everything. We had an earthquake and the G20 Summit. It truly was a week of ups and down, both physically and emotionally. I was ‘lucky’, I never experienced any of the violence that was seen throughout the weekend on Toronto streets. I did experience the aftermath, but nothing more than that.

There were a few moments from this weekend that I’d like to highlight:

The “Bike Bloc” that I stumbled upon at Yonge and Dundas yesterday was very well handled by the police. The group was led by four bike cops, and trailed by four bike cops, with a few more throughout the area. They stopped them at Yonge and Dundas to regroup to that traffic wasn’t tied up as much, and also seemed to show concern for possible injuries due to the streetcar tracks. It appeared as though the police were really enjoying this, despite probably being beyond tired.

The “Black BAG” protesters I ran into were really funny. I ran into one of them again on my way home last night. These were 3 guys who were upset by the rain while trying to get home to the Spadina and Richmond area; trying to find streets that were open to get there (this was during the Queen and Spadina incident). We stopped for shelter for a moment in a massive downpour so I snapped a pic. Luckily, for a fun pic, props were nearby.

The protest on Friday that I was about to get shots of was also very revealing. As the protest passed me, near the end was a group of five or so people cleaning up the streets, picking up discarded water bottles and the like. THIS is how to protest. Other than scraps of paper, to me it looked like they left the area the way they found it.

This weekend was an eye opener. We’ve all seen Summits like this before on television and the violence it brings from a small group of people who try to change this all for their own agenda.

And then there was the bad that I experienced. I never again want to be searched trying to get home. It’s un-Canadian and un-democratic. I understand the need for security, but if that’s the case, then residents outside of the yellow zone should have been provided ID cards as well, or at least the option of getting one. Some people were unaware of the need for ID, which you don’t always have to carry in this country. A newer neighbour of mine was stopped while driving home, asked why he was entering the area (his home), asked for ID, and because his licence expires soon, it was not updated to the new address. The info is updated with the Ministry, just not on his physical licence. They asked him to prove he lived there. He couldn’t. So they let him in, and asked him to return with a document that proved he lived there, and to get his vehicle.

I saw lots of people being searched for ‘no apparent reason’. Just for being in the area. A friend of mine was detained coming out of a restaurant, AWAY from any violent protest. This is what angers me the most. People who the police should know have nothing to do with the violence being detained in the name of public safety. That’s not the public safety I know.

Then there is what I witnessed on TV, and thankfully it didn’t happen to me. The inhumane practice of “kettleing” protesters. This was a tactic used by police in London England. It basically resulted in the death of one resident of the area who was trying to find his way home after work, not given info by the police on how to get out of the area, was beaten by the police and left for dead. The police then tried to cover it up with the help of their coroner who said he died of natural causes. A second autopsy proved this false.

The events of this weekend are far from over. This will continue to be played out in the weeks and possibly months to come with all the arrests that were made. The fact that many people have been released without charge should not go unnoticed. As well as some of the statements made by police to journalists and camera crews who were arrested and or witnessed arrests. Statements like “that shouldn’t have happened” in regards to a Guardian reporter being punched in the stomach and then elbowed in the back, as told by Steve Paikan (TVO). Or “don’t worry, you’ll be released soon, you didn’t do anything”.

Statements like this are deeply troubling.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Secret Documents and What They Mean For Democracy

Last night we all found out about the sweeping new powers of arrest granted to Police Officers, Security Guards and the Military. These were apparently given during a secret cabinet meeting in early June, went into effect June 14th and will finish by June 28th. It won’t be ‘public knowledge’ until July 3rd, when the new regulations are published province wide. This is an end run around our rights, and NO ONE should stand for it. To put it mildly, I’d likely be arrested if I didn’t know about this change. Why…because I knew what my rights were before hand. This throws all of that out the window. Don’t kid yourself. This had to be the plan all along. What better way to control the crowd than a secret document that gives them the discretion to arrest everyone. The language used, “satisfy the ‘guard’” is too vague. I LIVE here. The only way I have to prove it (since I don’t drive, and therefore do not have a Drivers Licence with my address) is to carry a piece of mail with me (plus ID). I hope this is ‘satisfactory’ to the officers.

If this hadn’t come to light before the majority of the protests, I think we would have been in for MANY more arrests. Hopefully this information is being disseminated to all interested parties, like it SHOULD have been done by the province. To put it mildly, all changes to law (which this is) have to be made public before said law takes effect. “Ignorance of the law” is no excuse, well, YOU made us ignorant of it by not making it public.

There were a few concerns I had before this summit started. Security Guards brought into this province were not licensed (neither was the company) in province. The requirement for that came into effect last year I believe. With this regulation, they don’t need to be, in fact, they seem to have more power than Ontario-licensed security guards. Also, the use of the Military as ‘police’ officers. Only Military Police are considered peace officers here…so, this regulation also seems to skirts that too.

This is not good for democracy. I encourage all of you to write or call to your MPP. Explain to them why this should not be acceptable in a democratic society. This is NOT a ‘public work’…this is an EVENT. If I can’t apply for this for a block party, you shouldn’t be able to either. This is Canada, you can’t secretly change something and not tell anyone about it when it affects their day-to-day lives. This is one aspect of the Summit that should not go quietly into that good night. This needs to be fixed. Something that can be done is to change the language of the Act so that it’s much less vague. Keep this an issue, since it seems this can be done at will for no good reason.

Part Two to follow.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Word with a Lawyer

This is not to be taken as legal advice.

In the past, Summits have involved clashes between protesters and police, some because of violence by the protesters and some for other reasons. Since these incidents did not happen in Canada, I asked a lawyer about the laws and regulations within Canada and what powers the police do and do not have. This is NOT to be taken as legal advice. If you find yourself under arrest, hire/call a lawyer. There are plenty that will be available all week.

I spoke to a Jeff Hershberg, a lawyer from Pinkofskys. Specifically, I wanted to know about identification, and when/where you need to produce it, and when you do not have to. Below is my correspondence with Mr. Hershberg:

BD: I’ve read some stories and seen some video of people being detained by police for not handing over government identification. They freely gave their name and address, but not identification. They were detained, searched, the police read the identification, and then released them. Now, I’ve also heard that unless driving (or sometimes riding a bike) you do not have to hand over identification, but you must identify yourself when asked. I’ve also heard the opposite that you must hand over identification whenever you are asked. What is the legal standing on this? Please note that question has nothing to do with the security zones, where I’m assuming the rules are different.

JH: If an officer simply approaches you on the street, you do not have to speak to him/her (I will use him from this point forward). If he is detaining you for a specific reason, he should inform you as to the reasons for the detention. You do not have an obligation to speak with him. In circumstances where you are driving, you must produce valid identification and insurance or you could receive a ticket. Lack of identification is not justification for a search. An officer needs reasonable and probable grounds (hereinafter RPG) to believe a criminal offence has been committed to arrest or search an individual. If I am walking down the street or sitting on a bench and an officer asks me my name and what I'm doing there, I would choose not to answer and ask him why he is questioning me. I would not have to provide him with my identification. A person not driving a vehicle does not have to carry identification. An officer would not be allowed to detain nor search an individual who does not provide identification. You are allowed to turn and walk away if you are not lawfully being detained or arrested. Now this does not necessarily mean that a police officer won't search an individual anyway but it would not be a legal action.

BD: In Summits and gatherings such as this in the past, some photographers were forced to delete photos or had footage confiscated by authorities. Under Canadian Law, would this be permissible? Would they need a warrant in order to confiscate footage or force deletion of photos?

JH: I have been informed in the past about officers on a scene taking away cameras or phones and deleting images taken by witnesses. This is not allowed but appears to be somewhat common. An officer would not be allowed to confiscate your camera or force you to delete photos unless it somehow was obstructing them in their duties (even then it is debateable whether they could take it from you). It'd be hard to think of a scenario where this would be the case. To take your camera, they would need judicial authorization. With the majority of the circumstances I've encountered where photos were deleted by force, the witnesses were less than savoury and it would be hard to prove. The beauty of the Summit is that there are security cameras everywhere right now and even if a camera is taken by an officer (whether legally or illegally), the security footage could be subpoenaed.

BD: Homeless people in the area have been told they need to be off the street by June 21st. Otherwise they will be arrested. Is there a precedent for this? What would the charge be?

JH: A precedent could be during what I believe was the Mel Lastman squeegee era where Mel Lastman, along with Conservative Mike Harris wanted to "clean up" the streets and force the squeegee kids to stop cleaning car windows. The sad reality is that "rounding up" homeless people occurs during many big events throughout the world (I recall hearing about criminals being locked up [or shot] for a month 'before the Rumble in the Jungle bout). Before the Olympics, governments where they are held often try to "clean up the streets temporarily.

I'm unsure what the police would charge homeless people with that would keep them in jail for the week or so around the Summit. They could be charged with loitering or if they are on private property and have been told to leave before they could be charged under the Trespass to Property Act. Unfortunately, those less fortunate sometimes get the short end of the stick and are not treated in the way Canadians should be treated. They might also be searched and arrested for whatever they might have on them that could be illegal.

BD: Do you have any advice for people who are arrested during the summit, and who may read this blog before that happens?

JH: If already arrested, there is no benefit in arguing with the officer. The only place that might get the person is added charges, based on what the officer might feel is appropriate. If you pull away, you might be charged with resisting arrest. If you lie about your name, you might be charged with obstruct. If you shout, you might be charged with causing a disturbance. With the way our laws are currently set up, the police have the power initially. The place to dispute the charge is in court. If you feel your arrest is unlawful, dispute the charge and let the court hear the case.

There are several lawyers willing to assist with those charged during the Summit including myself and my firm; Pinkofskys. Many will provide initial legal assistance for free. When arrested, you have a right to remain silent. You don't have to answer police questions. Speak to a lawyer before even considering whether to speak to the police upon arrest. Make full use of your rights when under arrest. You won't talk your way out of a charge so don't even try.

The great thing about being Canadian is you have a right to speak your mind and not be fearful that you will be arrested or killed for it. Though the G20 is an unnecessary waste of scarce resources and money in today's technologically advanced society, it continues to be held each and every year (though instead of twice a year it is about to change to once a year). It is a great opportunity to let your message be heard by many people throughout the world but doing so in a violent way will only distort your message and bring with it a backlash that does not help your cause. Don't give the police and other security forces a reason to arrest or harm you through its use of distractionary measures (for example, use of the sounds cannons, pepper spray, batons, or any other method). If you find yourself in the unfortunate circumstance of being arrested, stay calm, call a lawyer, and let the court process take its course. If you are arrested or charged, don't hesitate to contact me and I will do my part in assisting anyone arrested during the Summit.

Jeff Hershberg is a lawyer in downtown Toronto and can be reached at 416-428-7360, or

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Already searching vehicles....

What is the big problem right now? This morning I found out that newspaper delivery vehicles were being searched for bombs. Were still 2 weeks from the Summit. Those newspapers are DAILY…they will not be there tomorrow. There is NO reason to be searching them now. This is just another cost that does nothing to promote security, but it DOES cast a bad light on the police and the procedures they use. In Canada (as well as most civilised societies) we are free from unreasonable search and seizure. This seems to fall past that. I can see in the few days gearing up to it, but 2 weeks away, not so much. I would also assume that on the Friday night, they will be doing a bomb sweep of the entire area, which makes doing this now counterproductive and pointless. I knew our Rights would be trounced during the summit, but I didn’t expect it to start so soon.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Fencing Begins...

19 days before the summit, the first of the barrier is laid down on Windsor St. I've already seen some set up south of Rogers Centre, which must have been done earlier in the day. They seem to be moving at a pretty good pace...which is good, since the area they have to cover is quite large. One thing I've noticed in the past few days is that it seems they've stopped calling it an unscalable fence. Talk like that only makes one want to try it. Remember, they called the Titanic unsinkable, and we ALL know how that ended! And if you don't know how it ended, spoiler sank.

Here's a short list of things that have been shutdown, moved or cancelled because of the 'minor'interruption of the G20 Summit:

- University of Toronto
- Rock of Ages
- Mamma Mia!
- Daycares
- Rogers Centre
- CN Tower
- Bay Street (some)
- VIA Rail
- Various Small Businesses
- Queens Park, and associated Media Facilities
- Parking lots

If this is what is to be considered "minor" in the view of our Government, I would NOT like to see what a major disruption is.

So, as the first barriers are put in place, I thought it nice to commemorate it with a few photos.

The trucks arrive...

And start laying the base of the fence