by Barry Weisleder
Ten years after the largest mass arrest in the history of Canada, the Toronto Police Board pledged to pay $16.5 million to the victims. Over 1,600 protesters and bystanders who were arbitrarily boxed in, arrested and detained in inhuman conditions will share the award. Downtown Toronto was turned into an armed camp during the June 2010 gathering of leaders of 20 of the world’s biggest economies.
Subject to final approval by Ontario’s Superior Court, the settlement will give between $5,000 and $24,700 to each person arrested. Tommy Taylor, one of the claimants, told the Toronto Star on August 17 that the settlement feels “surreal” after a decade of court negotiations and delays. “Justice delayed is justice denied”, said Taylor.
Truly, it is little compensation for the people who were indiscriminately ‘kettled’ by riot police, stripped of their belongings and detained for days in filthy metal cages – for protesting peacefully, or in some cases, simply walking home.
Only one cop, Toronto police Superintendent Mark Fenton, was later found guilty of professional misconduct for twice ordering mass detentions. Current Liberal Federal Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, who was Toronto police chief during the G20, faced no repercussions. He declined to comment on the latest arrangement.
Will this class action deal ensure that such appalling police behaviour won’t happen again? Don’t count on it. Even in the wake of the cop murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and global protests associated with Black Lives Matter, beatings, shootings and murders by police continue in which Indigenous folks and people of colour are disproportionately victimized.
No Justice for Regis
On August 26, Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit absolved police of any misconduct in the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet. The 29-year-old Afro-Indigenous woman fell fatally from her 24th-floor west-end Toronto balcony in May. Several heavily armed Toronto cops were in her small apartment at the time.
Those who seriously proclaim ‘Never Again’ face the task of ridding the world of the racist, repressive capitalist system. It can be done, starting with demands to Disarm, De-Fund and Disband the police.
Mass action is key
While the outlook is grim, Canada and the USA are far from being in the grips of a police state, much less a fascist regime that would pulverize labour, racialized minorities and the left. The G20 settlement shows that the business elite still prefers the present relatively low-cost provisions of liberal ‘limited democracy’. The rulers periodically even make judicial concessions to sustain that appearance – such as when they pay a pittance to their victims, or by the repeal of the War Measures Act in 1988. However, encroachments on civil liberties persist and grow. The best defence is mass, peaceful political action in the streets and work places — combined with construction of a revolutionary workers’ party to lead the way to fundamental social change.