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October 7, 2010

Using Israeli police tactics in Canada

Scott Stockdale

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Toronto police is facing several multi-million dollar class action lawsuits as a result of its conduct at the G20 in Toronto last summer. The citizens of Ontario ought to be asking themselves how they got into this situation.

On August 5, Sherry Good, an office worker living in downtown Toronto, filed a class action suit against Toronto Police Services Board, and the Attorney General of Canada.

Ms. Good's suit asks for damages in the sum of $45 million in an "action to preserve and affirm the fundamental civil rights of over 800 Canadian citizens, residents, and visitors who, in the context of the Global G20 Summit meeting in Toronto on June 26-27, 2010, publicly and lawfully demonstrated to express their concerns on issues of public importance, or who were observing and reporting on those demonstration, or who were present simply by chance, and who were wrongfully and without good cause arrested, detained, imprisoned, and or/held by police."

On September 2 another class action suit for $115 million in damages was filed at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice on behalf of the 1,150 people, including some business people whose property was damaged during the G-20, by activists Miranda McQuade and Mike Barber. The class action suit is posted at www.g20classaction.ca.

A third action was announced on September 8 by twenty-year old environmental activist, Natalie Gray. She has launched a civil suit against the Toronto Police Services Board and police officers responsible for $1 million in damages. Ms. Gray was shot with rubber bullets on June 27 and sustained injuries to her left elbow and sternum. The press release announcing the suit notes:

"Natalie was arrested and -- without any basis in law -- was charged with obstruction of a peace officer. She was driven around in a police car for 30 minutes before she was taken to the hospital to receive treatment for her injuries. She was then taken to the detention centre on Eastern Avenue, where she was taunted by police officers, denied access to her asthma medication; strip searched; and denied access to counsel despite her repeated requests to speak to a lawyer. Natalie was detained for approximately 30 hours before she was released on bail the next day. On August 23, 2010, the Crown withdrew all charges against Natalie.”

Indeed, the vast majority of protesters arrested and detained by police that weekend were released without charge. 

Moreover, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association is concerned because, of the 300 people who came forward to launch complaints against the police following the G20, almost half were reluctant to go further because of fear of police intimidation.

Although none of these charges have been proven in court, when so many people have come forward with similar stories, one can safely assume that something happened.  Canadians and people around the world didn't expect this type of conduct from law enforcement officers in Canada. How did it come to this?

A March 8 2005 Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) press release below may shed some light on the issue:

“Police Chiefs and senior police leaders from across Ontario wrapped up a successful week-long mission to Israel today which saw them gain new insights into police procedures, anti-terrorism and security strategies and other law enforcement issues – insights that will help our police services in meeting Ontario’s changing public safety needs.

“Ontarians expect their police leaders to be prepared to lead in addressing the serious and constantly changing security challenges facing Ontario communities today,” said Chief Armand LaBarge (York Regional Police), First Vice-President of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police (OACP) and Co-Chair of the Mission.

“Israel has always faced serious law enforcement issues. Our police colleagues there are world leaders in tackling security threats and potential acts of terrorism on a daily basis. This Mission allowed us to get a first-hand look at how they are meeting these challenges.”

Unfortunately, Chief Armand didn't add that the techniques Canadian police officers learned in Israel, may not be legal in Canada.

Indeed, Natalie Gray's lawyers think police used illegal tactics on her. Her statement of claim reads, in part: “Natalie is suing for assault and battery; unlawful arrest and detention; malicious prosecution; and violations of a number of her constitutional rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms – something that doesn't exist in Israel and most, if not all, other countries in the world.

In a Formal Policy Complaint to Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, dated August 11, 2005, Susan Howard-Azzeh , President of the Niagara Palestinian Association said, in part:

“Forgive my passion and satirical tone but can you imagine using Israeli tactics in Canada such as torture, sensory deprivation, unlawful detention of children and political prisoners; denying detainees access to lawyers and parents, administrative detention (which we’ve already adopted in the secret "Security Certificate");targeted assassinations, the use of "rubber bullets" - rubber coated steel bullets that are lethal; (and) collective punishment.”

Nonetheless, on March 23, 2008, Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety Canada and Avi Dicter, Minister of Public Security of the Government of the State of Israel, signed The Canada-Israel Public Security agreement, in Tel Aviv, an agreement that has barely been mentioned in the Canadian press.

Dr. Michel Chossudovsky, of the Centre for Research on Globalization, questioned the lack of transparency and due process in signing this agreement.

“It has not been the object of a debate in parliament. Why has this issue not been brought to the forefront of public debate? Why has the parliamentary opposition remained mum on the subject?

It should be forcefully challenged in Canada's courts.”

Meanwhile, repeated messages left with Toronto Police Services media relations officers, requesting an explanation, have gone unanswered. And this is what the taxpayers are paying these police officers to do.

http://statismwatch.ca/2005/02/28/ontario-police-chiefs-travel-to-israel-to-study-police-tactics/

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