Yet another report has been presented regarding the breakdown of policing during the G20 summit that took place in downtown Toronto two years ago, this one from retired judge, John Morden, who examined the role of the Toronto Police Services Board.
The bottom line from Morden’s report was that the board did not take charge and did not ask enough of the tough questions. In short, the board fell down on its mandate to oversee the Toronto Police Service (TPS).
It seems a bit strange to suggest that members of the board did not know the parameters of their mandate and, as a result, felt restricted in questioning operational procedure. Did they not read the act that governs their existence and explains their powers and responsibilities? Or were they reluctant (or afraid under the circumstances) to challenge or question the chief?
We hear that relations between the TPS and the board focused on policy and not procedure and that the board was ‘discouraged’ from making procedural inquiries. How so? And, of course, why?
The 2010 G20 summit wasn’t just a protest by tens of thousands concerned that governments and private interests are ignoring the concerns of the masses. And it certainly was more than a meeting of 20 heads of states. It was also an amassing of security personnel in a remarkably disorganized, some would say brutal, episode the likes of which has not been witnessed on Canadian soil in a very long time; certainly not in this city.
So we are left with the image of that mammoth operation looking somewhat leaderless and leaving little but chaos in its wake. Now we know inaction by the Police Services Board also contributed to this chaos.
Here again is another example of a failing in accountability. However, as with everyone else who were supposed to be responsible, Board Chair Alok Mukherjee has not expressed any semblance of an apology for the cock-up. It is particularly disturbing, actually, that there has not been a single individual or set of individuals willing to accept responsibility for what took place. And, remarkably, none of the many reports – not the ones by Ontario ombudsman Andre Marin and former chief justice Roy McMurtry, not the House of Commons Standing Committee G20 report, not the Toronto Police Internal Review, not the RCMP’s Public Interest Investigation, not the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) and not the Police Services Board Independent Civilian Review – has made any individual or set of individuals specifically and categorically accountable for what was a massive violation of the civil liberties of Canadians, the secret enactment and subsequent misinterpretation of the Public Works Protection Act, rampant mistreatment of detainees, that horrible ‘kettling’ incident, and the failure to protect citizens and property.
Of an estimated 10,000 law enforcement officers from a range of forces including the RCMP, we know a few individual officers have been identified and penalized for unbecoming conduct such as removing nametags and epaulets from their uniforms, while charges are being considered against a number of others for assault.
But these officers were given directives on how to function in carrying out their duties. They were directed to stand down when so-called ‘black bloc’ tactics led to vandalism of storefronts on Yonge Street and environs and a police vehicle was set on fire.
Who gave those orders? Who approved them? Who made the decision to have only one officer process the 1000 detainees held at the temporary and hastily configured holding centre in a rented movie studio on Eastern Avenue?
The directive to hold the summit in downtown Toronto came from the Office of the Prime Minister, despite advice from Toronto officials that the grounds of the Canadian National Exhibition would have been better logistically. Yet, Stephen Harper has also been distinctly silent on all of this.
The people of Toronto – and, indeed, all of Canada – are owed at least an explanation – and, dare we say, an apology – from someone for what took place on that fateful G20 weekend in June of 2010.