I am not a fan of the public inquiry. Misplaced, in my opinion, is the ever-growing enthusiasm for aggrieved or unsatisfied parties to sound the clarion call for the expenditure of public funds to eventually provide a report that often doesn’t result in either action or improvements, because it ends up ignored by politicians or the organization it is aimed at. Names are rarely named and fault even more infrequently apportioned. Reports and recommendations sit on the shelf collecting dust, generally wasting the taxpayers’ outlay and not giving much satisfaction to anyone. Although, they do provide interesting work for lawyers.
But, and I say this reluctantly, the questions surrounding the police actions during last summer’s G20 summit in Toronto need to be answered and the current mishmash of reports, investigations, and internal probes will not properly shed light on what Ontario ombudsman André Marin, in his report on the so-called fence law, called “The most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history.”
The RCMP, Toronto police, the Ontario government, Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit, the new Office of the Independent Police Review Director, the Security Intelligence Review Committee, and probably more groups as well as a variety of court cases both criminal and civil, in the form of individual and class action lawsuits, are all vying to answer the myriad questions surrounding who was responsible for what in terms of G20 security and policing. But, as most of the lawyers in our cover story “Mass disorder” point out, individually none of them will be able to do the job properly. Each may answer one portion of the puzzle but none will be able to bring all the pieces together.
Already it has come to light that police officers removed their badges during the summit weekend and a few are being investigated and charged after photos and videos of them were sent to local newspapers. Marin’s report called the fence law “illegal” and “unconstitutional” and its resulting infringement on freedom of expression “unjustifiable in a free and democratic society.” In the face of all this, it can’t be denied that the best use of taxpayer money is not settling lawsuits, as human rights lawyer Clayton Ruby asserts the government will do, or looking at issues through a narrow lens. A federal-provincial public inquiry is needed to look at the big picture and all of the players involved in the security proceedings on that fateful G20 weekend last June.