Call for a public inquiry into the G20 Summit

Award winning Toronto Star photo shows police responding to protesters at the G20 Summit. Police tactics included tear gas, rubber bullets and 'kettling'.
Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The 2010 G20 Summit, which brought together heads of government to discuss global finances and the world economy, was held in Toronto on June 26-27, 2010. During the G20 Summit, more than 1,100 people were arrested by the thousands of police officers who were patrolling the city.

Journalists, protesters and passers-by were subject to search, intimidation, detention and assault as police referenced their authority under the Public Works Protection Act (the Act). The Act provided authorization for officers to request identification, search without warrant and refuse entry “using such force as is necessary” to anyone within the established perimeter of the G20 Summit.

Several journalists were among those contained by police at Queen St. W. and Spadina Ave. for up to four hours in the rain. Others had their cameras seized, film destroyed and memory cards erased. Some were detained for up to 20 hours, being denied food, water and access to legal assistance. Another journalist was shot with a rubber bullet. While being arrested, a few journalists reported being physically assaulted and threatened with sexual assault.

CJFE collected information from journalists affected by the G20 Summit, and compiled the information in their International Free Expression Review. Most journalists stated that they were being targeted specifically because of their occupation. “The press was treated like a potential enemy of the police and was systematically denied access and information. In many cases this included violence, detention, confiscation of equipment,” said Jesse Freeston of The Real News Network, a subsidiary of Independent World Television. Police routinely ignored press credentials and Bethany Horne, a freelancer with Alternative Media Centre credentials, said that wearing her accreditation “felt like a liability.”

CJFE also conducted video interviews with journalists about their experiences. Below is the account of Lisan Jutras, columnist for the Globe and Mail, who was ‘kettled’ by police and left standing in the rain for hours.

You can also hear about Colin O’Connor’s experience of being arrested and assaulted by police officers. A freelance photographer working with the National Post, O’Conner was thrown to the ground without warning, hit in the head, kneed in the back and dragged behind the police line.

Additional testimonies from journalists who were detained and assaulted can be found on CJFE’s YouTube website.

Following the G20 Summit, CJFE and numerous other organizations called for an open inquiry including a thorough examination of police treatment of journalists covering the event. Eight months later, no such inquiry has been conducted by the Government of Canada.

On February 28, 2011, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) issued a report outlining the major civil liberties violations which took place during the G20 Summit and provided recommendations for the federal government. The first of their recommendations is for a comprehensive public inquiry into the policing and governance of the G20 Summit.

CJFE believes that there are many unanswered questions regarding the violations of free expression at the G20 Summit. CJFE continues to call for a thorough investigation into police conduct at the G20 Summit and adds its voice to the urging of the CCLA and NUPGE that the Government of Canada conducts a comprehensive public inquiry.

Read CJFE's alert to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Read CJFE’s initial response to the G20 Summit protests.

Read CJFE’s 2010 Free Expression International Review article Allegations of Police Misconduct and the Treatment of Journalists During the G20.

Read all of CCLA’s Breach of the Peace report.

Take part in CCLA’s demand for a public inquiry.