They Stand Among the Most Shameful Days for Freedom and Democracy in our Country, during the G20 Summit in Toronto
“This ain’t Canada now.” – to a young Canadian citizen from one of the estimated 20,000 police Canada’s then Prime Minister Stephen Harper and then Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty allowed out to dominate the streets of Toronto during the G20 Summit in that city, in late June, 2010
An Introductory Look Back at this Travesty by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted June 26th, 2020 on Niagara At Large
“June 26 and 27, 2010, will forever be dark days, sad days, not just for the city of Toronto but for Canada. … People in this province and in this country have lost a great deal of confidence in law enforcement and in their government over the course of the time from June 26 through to now.” – Peter Kormos, then an NDP MPP for what is now the provincial riding of Niagara Centre, on November 4th, 2010, while arguing for a full public inquiry in to what many Canadian citizens saw as a massive police force, out of control on the streets of Toronto.
They were “dark days,” alright, and the loss of confidence in law enforcement the late Peter Kormos was referring to back then continues through to this day with questions about excessive use of force and systemic racism, and calls for reforming and, in some cases, de-funding police forces in Canada, the United States and other countries around the world.
Like countless many of other Canadians, I was back and forth between work and home during those days, and opening a newspaper or turning on the television news to reports of mayhem in Toronto one was more use to hearing about happening in countries run by totalitarian thugs, somewhere else in the world,
Yet here it was, unfolding in Toronto – a police force dressed in what looked like Darth Vader-like riot gear, firing tear gas on gatherings of unarmed civilians, kittling them for hours on end in the middle of their own streets, and engaging in the largest mass arrest in the history our country – just a few days before Canada Day, when so many of us like to celebrate this country as one of the most free and peaceful democracies in the world.
It was a few days after Canada Day 2010 that I went to the Niagara home of John and Susan Pruyn to do an interview with him for a story that would go viral on this Niagara At Large site.
I went to the Pruyn home after a friend of theirs phoned me and told me about the shocking ordeal they experienced during those dark days in our country.
Niagara At Large will have more on the Pruyns story in the days ahead, but for now, I will leave you with the way then-Niagara MPP Peter Kormos told it during that November 4th sitting in the Ontario legislature –
“John Pruyn is a constituent of mine. I know him,” the late Peter Kormos said. “He’s 57 years old. He works for Revenue Canada, for Pete’s sake.
“He’s an amputee; he lost his leg in a farming accident 17 years ago. John Pruyn is a peace activist. He was at the event with his wife, Susan, and his daughter (Sarah).
“He was sitting on the lawns of Queen’s Park, which so many people had believed was sort of a safe zone-not safe to commit crimes but safe to be removed from any of the fray that was going on out there.
“He was attacked by police officers, arrested, handcuffed, had his prosthesis torn off his leg, was hauled off to spend a couple of days in the primitive, makeshift, oh-so-Guantanamo-reminiscent holding cells down on Eastern Avenue, and then was released without charges.”
When I first met John Pruyn shortly after Canada Day 2010, all I could see was a kind and friendly man who was still terribly shaken over that moment when, while he was seated on the grass at Queen’s Park, riot police descended upon him like flying monkeys tearing apart the scare crow in that haunted forest scene in The Wizard of Oz.
When I called the Pruyn’s home in Pelham this June 25th, John’s wife Susan told me that he, like so many others who were man-handled and detained by the police during those days, still suffers from post-traumatic stress.
Neither he, nor anyone else whose civil rights were trampled on during that period, have ever received an official apology from anyone representing law enforcement or government to this day.
Indeed, what a good thing it might be if our current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, took a little time on this Canada Day to offer such an apology to the Pruyns and to so many other Canadians citizens who were arrested and held in makeshift cages, without explanation and without ever being charged.
At a time in our history when so many questions and concerns have been raised about the role of police in our communities, an apology from our political leaders and from representatives of the law enforcement agencies deployed during those dark days might help set a positive tone for those questions and concerns to be addressed.
Niagara At Large will have more on what happened to the Pruyns and others in our Canada, in the days leading up to and including Canada Day 2020
Contrary to one of those police officers back then said to an un-armed citizens trying to walk down the street, “This is Canada now,” and we should all stand together for the freedoms and rights our country should embrace here and around the world.
In the meantime, here is a piece that CBC’s Fifth Estate broadcast in the months following the G20 Summit in Toronto in June of 2010. What you will see bears a striking and disturbing resemblance to what many of us have watched unfolding on American cable news channels in recent times, in U.S. cities, as a certain ‘strong man’ wannabe in the White House encouraged police forces to “dominate” the streets.
To watch it, please click on the screen below –
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