Niagara Rally Attendees Slam G20 Security Measures – Demand Full and Open Public Inquiry

Ontario justice critic and Niagara area MPP Peter Kormos speaks at rally protesting G20 security measures. Photo by Doug Draper.

“When the police cross the line,
slippery slope to the dark side”

- from a song composed by Dave Toderick and performed by the Niagara-based band ‘Bag of Hats’ at a G20 rally this July 17 in St. Catharines, Ontario’s Montebello Park.

By Doug Draper

Of all the images I walked away with following a rally this July 17 in St. Catharines, Ontario’s Montebello Park for a public inquiry into the actions of security forces at the recent G20 summit, the one that haunted me the most was that of a young girl crying hysterically for her mother.

“There was a 14-year-old girl … being carried in there (by police) and literally screaming that her mother had sent her out to get some milk,” recalled Curtis Dignard, a Welland, Ontario resident who, along with his friend Jason Bernard, was arrested and placed ‘in there’ – meaning the makeshift cages set up in warehouses for those taken into custody during the summit – after police closed in on them and others on the streets of Toronto while they were singing ‘O Canada’.

That young girl – whom we don’t know by name but whose story should be told to all Canadians who claim to care about freedom and democracy in this country – was just one of more than 900 people arrested during the two-day summit this past June 26 and 27 – at least 400 more than were arrested during the 1970 October Crisis when militant elements of the Front de liberation du Quebec (FLQ) kidnapped two government officials, killed one and the federal government of the day imposed a ‘War Measures Act’ that temporarily suspended the civil liberties of every person alive in the country at the time.

Sarah Pruyn, Thorold resident, arrested at G20 summit and released without charges. Photo by Doug Draper.

As Fiona McMurran , a member of the Niagara south chapter of the nation-wide citizens organization Council of Canadians, put it during the St. Catharines rally organized by her chapter and Citizens Advocating Political Participation (CAPP Niagara), stressed as more than 150 people gathered at the rally – “This G20 gave us the largest mass arrests (in Canada) in recent history (and) what were most of the thousands of people (gathered in Toronto) doing? Nothing (that warranted arrest). Nothing at all.

If anything, many of them were there to raise concerns about world poverty, climate change and other issues they felt weren’t being addressed seriously enough by Canada’s Stephen Harper, U.S. President Barack Obama and the 18 other leaders hidden away in a convention centre in the downtown. If they were guilty of anything, said McMurran, they were guilty of “caring” about their country and about the welfare of people of the rest of the planet. Others were guilty simply walking the streets or, in the case of the young girl, “going downtown to buy a quart of milk.”

Malcolm Allen, the federal representative for the Welland riding in Niagara, promised those attending the rally that his New Democratic Party will do everything it can to convince Harper’s Conservative government to allow a public inquiry in to concerns around security at the G20 summit.

Referring to John Pruyn, a Thorold amputee whose story, along with his daughter Sarah, at the hands of security forces has been told in detail in earlier posts on Niagara At Large at www.niagaraatlarge.com, Allen stressed that Pruyn had a right as a Canadian citizen to be where he was, in a designated “free-speech zone” on the lawns around the Ontario legislature at Queen’s Park, when he was arrested by police and was locked in a cage for 27 hours before being released without charges.

Council of Canadians rep Fiona McMurran at rally with Welland residents Curtis Dignard, at left, and Jason Bernard, who were both arrested and detained after singing 'O Canada' at the G20 summit. Photo by Doug Draper.

“It is John Pruyn’s right in this country to speak out,” Allen said of the 57-year-old federal revenue employee and part-time farmer who joined his daughter Sarah and wife Susan and others gathered at Queen’s Park  to support calls for more global action on poverty, environmental protection and other issues. “That is our right (as citizens in a democracy) and we intend to take it back because it belongs to all of us in this land,” Allen said.

Peter Kormos, the provincial representative for the Welland riding and justice critic for the NDP, told attendees at the rally that what happened in downtown Toronto during the summit  – a good deal of it reported in the media and picked up on video clips available online – “should outrage every Canadian (and cause) an outrage that should beat into a fierce demand for accountability.”

Kormos slammed the makeshift detention centres and their “deplorable conditions” (those held in them said they were cold and deprived of adequate water, food and toilet facilities) and said they were “designed to terrorize, traumatize and humiliate.” He also slammed Ontario Liberal Premier Dalton McGuinty and his cabinet for secretly signing legislation that gave security forces extraordinary (and many argue, unconstitutional) powers to carry out searches of people walking the streets and making arrests.

“Dalton McGuinty, in a democratic society … every cabinet minister who signed off on that legislation has to be held accountable for the crime they committed,” said Kormos, vowing to fight for a public inquiry that will force those who orchestrated the security measures to testify under oath.

Throughout the St. Catharines rally, many in attendance expressed concern over where Canada is going when it comes to citizens’ rights to gather and express their views. Sarah Pruyn received supportive applause when she said she couldn’t believe the government would designate something called a “free-speech zone,” as if to say every place else is out-of-bounds for a citizen to express their views in a country like Canada.

Niagara band 'Bag of Hats' featuring from left, Dave Toderick, Ted Dexter and Shari Sacco, perform 'When The Police Cross The Line'. Photo by Doug Draper.

Mikki Kaplan, a Niagara resident who helped start a Niagara chapter of Citizens Advocating Political Participation, said many Canadians are so disengaged or turned off politics right now, they are not turning up at rallies like this one or even going out to vote during an election. The suspension of civil liberties during the G20 summit speaks to how important it is for people to get involved and to go to the polls and vote for candidates who will stand up for those liberties, she said.

By the way, the organizers of this rally invited provincial and federal representatives of all political stripes to speak at this rally, including Ontario Liberal cabinet minister and St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley, Ontario Conservative opposition leader and Niagara MPP Tim Hudak, Niagara Falls Conservative federal representative and Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, Niagara Falls provincial Liberal representative Kim Craitor and others. They turned out to be no shows for reason that had to do with notes they sent to the organizers that they had other commitments to sending no note to the organizers at all.

(Click on Niagara At Large at www.niagaraatlarge.com for more news and commentary on this and other matters of interest and concern to residents in our greater binational Niagara region.)

For your information, we are posting the lyrics from the song ‘When the Police Cross the Line’, written by Dave Toderick of Welland and performed by Toderick, Shari Sacco and Ted Dexter at the rally by their group ‘Bag of Hats’.
 When the Police Cross the Line  By Dave Toderick
1st Verse:  My name is Robert Tate.  I live in Canada

      A country of which I’ve always been proud

      Twenty-sixth of June, Toronto, Canada

      Protesting G20, I’m in the crowd
2nd Verse:  Sitting on the grass in a peaceful area

       Public space where we were told we could be

       A line of armoured cops moved into the area

       Ordered everyone to move, then bore down on me
1st Pre-Chorus:  I guess I didn’t move fast enough for them

`   You see, I walk with a cane

   Pinned me down on the ground

   Kicked me and kicked again
Chorus:  When the police cross the line

  When the police cross the line

  Slippery slope slide to the dark side

  When the police cross the line

  When the police cross the line

  Slippery slope slide to the dark side
3rd Verse:  Locked up in a cage for twenty-six hours

      Couldn’t call my lawyer or my son

      Kept thirsty and hungry for hours and hours

      It shouldn’t happen to anyone
4th Verse:  My name is Robert Tate.  I live in Canada

      Thought the Charter of Rights protected me

      Twenty-sixth of June, Toronto, Canada

      Our country was not a land of the free
2nd Pre-Chorus:  I know that the whole world over

   Throughout history

   People have to fight for their freedoms and rights

   I’m hopin’ you’ll join with me
Repeat Chorus twice
  c 2010 Dave Toderick

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6 responses to “Niagara Rally Attendees Slam G20 Security Measures – Demand Full and Open Public Inquiry

  1. George Jardine

    A 14 year old girl goes on an errand to get some milk for her mother, she is caught up in the net and stuck in a cage,is this happening in my country Canada, seems we are living in a third world country big brother has finally arrived with a vengeance worthy of Nazi Germany. What is the reasoning behind this arbitary arrests of law abiding Canadians, we have to stand up for our rights before we are all brutilized and live in fear of our politicians and big brother.

  2. I doubt the story about the ’14 year old girl goes on an errand and gets arrested at G20.’ The protests were probably the most extensively documented events in recent history in Canada. Show us the video link. This is just drama soup, and contributes nothing towards rational political discourse.

    • And how about the fellow who had his prosthesis torn off? Also ‘drama soup’ I guess? There are many video links to choose from; I’d be happy to post some if you are incapable of finding them yourself. Public discourse occurs whether it’s a subject you agree with or not……that’s what discourse is about. Doubt if you must, but you’ve got lots of viewing ahead of you……

  3. Fiona McMurran

    Rational discourse is, unfortunately, not an option with this government, any more than it was possible between the security forces at the G20 and the innocent protesters and bystanders that they were given the power to apprehend and detain. The politics of force is the politics of fear. There has never been anything rational about that.

  4. Dave Toderick

    An in-depth look at the relevant sections of the Canadian Charter of Rights might be in order at this point.

    8. Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure. *

    9. Everyone has the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned. *

    10. Everyone has the right on arrest or detention

    (a) to be informed promptly of the reasons therefor; *

    (b) to retain and instruct counsel without delay and to be informed of that right; *

    * unless a police officer is being assaulted by or is in danger of being assaulted by a bubble, in which case all bets are off

  5. Angela Browne

    I was there at that event and I am glad that I showed up. If we don’t begin to speak up now about these things, little by little, we will lose whatever few rights we have left.

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