Thursday, November 11, 2010

G20 : Breach of the Peace

In his testimony to the Public Safety Committee on Nov 3 about G20 police abuses, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair claimed that detained members of the public complained of sexual assault and being threatened with sexual violence by police but then withdrew those complaints when they learned the extent of police video surveillance in the detention centres. Here's Blair at the 16:25 mark :
"One of the allegations made to the public and the media was allegations of sexual assault. When it became more public knowledge that there were video cameras there, those allegations were withdrawn."
Guess not, Chief Blair, because here they are again at the Breach of the Peace public hearings co-hosted by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the National Union of Public and General Employees. The two days of proceedings are tweeted live at Rabble and they resume tomorrow for one more day in Montreal. Likely this is the closest we will get to a public inquiry.

Many people automatically discount allegations of sexual threats from the police. I don't.
Here's my own wee story, insignificant though it is beside those of the G20 detainees.

Many years ago when I was a young teen growing up in West Vancouver I was crossing Marine Drive on a crosswalk one afternoon when out of a group of people crossing towards me an old man began to stumble and fall. I managed to catch him on his way down; he thanked me, righted himself, seemed ok, and off we went in our opposite directions. A block later a West Van Police car with two officers in it pulls up and motions me over. The officer on the passenger side begins to question me about the old guy. I think they are concerned about him. Then they ask me if I just bought drugs from him. I don't know the guy, I answer, and I don't do drugs. They are obviously not convinced. I ask them if they would like to search my bag. (I know, I know, but I was just a kid.)
"Maybe you keep your drugs in your underpants," says the passenger side cop. "Do you keep your drugs in your underpants?" I ran.

Embarrassed that anyone would talk to me in such a manner, I was too ashamed to tell anyone, let alone my parents. Much later I wished I had the wit and courage at the time to think beyond myself, as that kind of sexual bullying may well have been a regular feature of his day in the neighbourhood.

Anyway I got over it and stopped being on alert for police cars, and hopefully so will the young men and women who are making much more serious complaints of sexual threats and abuse at the G20. But it changes how you think of the police and that is not a good thing for law enforcement in this country.

Blair should welcome the opportunity to air these charges in a public inquiry. Sadly he does not and so they fester on unanswered, consigning suspicion to an entire police force - their alleged bad apples and their bubble of unaccountability undermining both the force and the public goodwill on which they depend.


deBeauxOss said...

Exactly how I feel.

In order to protect those cops guilty of sexual assault, civil rights abuse and other criminal acts, Blair is willing to have the rest - the good cops - bear the ignominy of the few.

Cathie from Canada said...

What a frightening experience.
And obviously, these police were used to harassing women in this way -- the probably laughed when you ran, as did the police at the G20. On all sides, a dehumanizing event.

Anonymous said...

Hey, did you notice that the crossbow detainee is finally out on bail? His trial has begun with fresh police claims about the weapon being loaded and testimony from A. Joseph, aka 'Officer Bubbles'

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