When the world looks at Canadians, what is the first word that comes to their mind? Maybe it is that we are friendly, or peaceful, or tolerant. If that is the image that we have been portraying, what do people think of us now, after the biggest mass arrest in Canadian history? As the world leaders met at the G8 summit in Huntsville this past Saturday, and then at the G20 in Toronto, Canadians challenged this image by showing acts of violent protests and complaints about a government spending too much on security. If you ask me, I’d say their point was made very clear.
The protests exceeded to a new level on Saturday as black-clad and hooded protesters marched through the city, smashing shop windows and setting ablaze at least two police cars. The CBC reported that police fired rubber bullets at one point to disperse a crowd of about 150 protesters. There were scattered protests throughout Sunday, but they were neither as large nor as violent as Saturday’s. Outside the summit venue in downtown Toronto, police and protesters continued to clash through the end of the meetings. By Sunday night, a few stores on Queen Street, which was hit by heavy rioting on Saturday, were still covered in plywood.
Over 900 were arrested over the past 10 days in Toronto due to the protests. Early on Saturday morning, police said they had arrested a total of 32 people, meaning that most of the arrests were done during the weekend alone. Amnesty International Canada said human rights suffered greatly during the protests and is calling for an independent review of the security measures that were put in place for the summits.
Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair said that several people were engaged in a “criminal conspiracy to attack the city… I’m quite confident that close to 400 of the people that were involved in those criminal acts in our city will be held accountable and we’re continuing in that investigation,” Blair said. (CBC) Blair said police had asked people to leave the area three times. Others have disputed claims that they were given the opportunity to leave.
Keith MacDonald, who said he had been detained for about 18 hours, said he had just stopped by to check things out when he was arrested on Queen Street West and Noble Street in Parkdale on Sunday. Wearing dark jeans, a dark t-shirt and no shoes, Mr. MacDonald said he was arrested for obstruction of police, but that he was released without charge. He says he suspects he was arrested for wearing a bandana, but said it was on his head, not his face. He described the inside of the make-shift detention centre as “cages” resembling animal kennels, fitting as many as 20 people into the larger ones. (The Globe & Mail)
A fifteen-year-old boy, dressed in an oversized orange t-shirt and cargo pants, said he was arrested Saturday night on the Esplanade and held for 33 hours. The teen, who would only identify himself as Liam, said that he was only there to watch the protest. “They surrounded us and told us to leave,” he said, “but how was I supposed to read the situation?” He said police never once told them how to leave or when the last warning would be without being charged. (The Globe & Mail)
There were several criticisms of the police tactics as reporters emerged that journalists, non-violent protesters and others who say they had no involvement in protest activity were being taken into custody. Freelance journalist Jesse Rosenfeild said that he was beaten by police Saturday night as he was at a non-violent protest on The Esplanade. Toronto police have said Rosenfeild, who has hired a lawyer, is welcome to file a complaint.
“Quite frankly, because of the volume of the people that we were dealing with, because of the continuing issue of the several thousand who were there lawfully to peacefully protest, we had no way of determining what all of their intentions were,” Chief Blair said. (CBC)
Toronto Mayor David Miller acknowledged watchers of the summit had not seen the best of Toronto over the weekend. “If you step outside of Canada for a moment, these kinds of summits attract violent protests, they have everywhere,” he told CBC News. “By those standards, Toronto’s police acquitted themselves very well and I think most people around the world are not going to associate Toronto with these violent acts, they will associate the G20 with those acts.” He also criticized the organizers of the summit for holding the meeting at the Metro Toronto Convention Center in the city. “The event was downtown. The city had argued very strongly that it should be at a self-contained place. Our choice was Exhibition Place.” (CBC) Mr. Miller said the city will ask the federal government to compensate businesses that suffered damages or had to close in addition to employees who lost wages because of the summit. “It’s only fair and reasonable,” he said. (The Globe & Mail)
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association denounced the mass arrests, saying they were illegal and unconstitutional because police did not have reasonable grounds to believe that everyone they detained had committed a crime or was about to do so. “To us, it’s abhorrent that we would be arresting more than 900 people to find maybe 50 or 100… vandals. This makes no sense. It’s a fundamental breech of Canadian law to have done that,” said Nathalie Des Rosiers, the organization’s general counsel. (The Globe & Mail)
A group of about ten people sat outside the temporary detention centre on Monday morning, waiting for people to be released. One woman said she’d been waiting since 1 a.m., and had seen about 20 people released since then, most in groups of two or three. By about 9:30 a.m., about five others had been released, each to a round of cheers.
Sergeant Gary Phillips said about 100 people continue to be detained inside the temporary detention centre on Eastern Avenue. Almost 850 people have been processed through the facility by early Monday afternoon, he said. By contrast, 58 people had been processed by Saturday afternoon. Constable Michelle Murphy, an ISU spokeswoman, said each person’s situation is being considered on a case-by-case basis to decide whether charges will be laid and whether they can be released. “All this takes time,” she said. (The Globe & Mail)
The weekend’s arrests totaled to become the largest mass arrest in Canadian history. The following is a list of the five largest mass shootings in Canada since 1970:
- 2010 Toronto G20 – Roughly 900
- 1993 – Clayoquot Sound Logging Blockades – 850
- 1970 October Crisis – 465
- 2001 Quebec City Summit of the Americas – 463
- 1981 Toronto Bathhouse Raids – 286
So what did the G8 and G20 summits actually accomplish? The discussions focused around the economic crisis, budget cuts, Iran and South Korea.
The group agreed to cut national budget deficits while promoting economic growth. Every G20 country has committed to cut deficits by half within three years. Proposals for a global levy have also been dropped. The summit pressed for banks to have a greater financial cushion to protect against future crises. Banks must build up higher levels of capital and liquidity within a longer timeframe, saying that 2012 should mark the start of the process, not the end.
Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Head of the International Monetary Fund, said that focusing on budget deficits was oversimplifying the problem because the situation was different from one country to another. He added that a more robust growth plan was needed to reduce unemployment and lessen the burden of large public debts.
On trade liberalization, the G20 arguably moved backwards, dropping 2010 as the target date for concluding the long-stalled Doha round of the World Trade Organization negotiations. Opposition from Canada, Japan, Brazil and Australia, whose banks did not need state bailouts during the crisis, thwarted European calls for a common tax on banks to shield taxpayers from the costs of rescuing the financial sector.
European members including the UK, France, and Germany have led moves to slash record public deficits, despite opposition from the States, which is expected to run a $1.3 trillion deficit in 2010. Emerging economies like Argentina and Brazil had worried that budget cuts in rich countries would hurt their export-dependent economies. Brazilian Finance Minister, Guido Mantega said, “If the cuts take place in advanced countries it is worse because instead of stimulating growth they pay more attention to fiscal adjustments, and if they are exporters they will be reforming at our cost.” (Reuters)
“We welcome the fact that the G20 has stepped away from imposing an arbitrary timeline for the implementation of new measures and has instead agreed to phase-in requirements agreements as and when national economic conditions allow,” the International Banking Federation said in a statement. (Reuters)
U.S. President Barack Obama warned against fast and deep budget cuts, fearing damage to global growth. He said that tighter regulations, including bigger capital requirements for banks, would be addressed at the next G20 summit in Seoul, South Korea, in November. “We must do everything in our power to avoid a repeat of the recent financial crisis,” he warned. (BBC) President Obama said the agreements show that nations can “bridge our differences” and “coordinate our approaches.” (CNN) He noted progress made in three areas: ensuring that the global economic recovery is strong and durable, continuing to reform the global financial system and addressing a range of issues that affect countries’ prosperity and security. “Every economy is unique, and every country will chart its own unique course, but make no mistake – we’re moving in the same direction.” (CNN) He gave specific examples of the United States’ efforts to rebound from the global recession – setting a goal of doubling U.S. exports over the next five years, strengthening U.S. economic cooperation with Russia and pushing to complete the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, a move he said “will create new jobs and opportunity for people in both our countries, and enhance America’s competitiveness in the 21st century.” (CNN) President Obama stressed the importance of promoting economic growth as a means to set up future fiscal soundness. “We must recognize that our fiscal health tomorrow will rest in no small measure on our ability to create jobs and growth today,” he said, adding that “in short, we have to do everything in our power to avoid a repeat of the recent financial crisis.” (CNN)
European leaders got what they saw as a green light to pursue austerity measures they consider essential to restore market confidence in the euro dented by the Greek fiscal crisis and wider concerns about high European sovereign debt. “To be honest, it was more than I expected,” German Chancellor Angela Markel said of the G20’s non-binding pledge to halve budget deficits by 2013 and balance budgets from 2016. The United States had pressed Europeans before the meeting to avoid withdrawing economic stimulus measures prematurely and urged countries with current account surpluses such as Germany to boost domestic demand. “The positive outcome is that the European consolidation programs, which are moderate and appropriate given the confidence crisis in Europe, have been endorsed and accepted by others at the G20 level,” Michael Heise, chief economist of Europe’s biggest insurer Allianz, told Reuters. “High and rising levels of public debt imply significant risks for the global economy,” the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements said in a report. (Reuters)
EU finance ministers are due to decide next week how many banks will be tested for their risk resilience, and on what criteria. EU leaders have agreed the results will be made public in an effort to restore market confidence. In a sign markets are still nervous about euro zone debt, the premium investors charge to hold French, Belgian, Spanish and Italian bonds rather than benchmark German bonds rose to the highest levels since early June. The interest rates at which banks lend to each other in euros also rose.
President Obama expected China’s currency to rise because of its recent commitment to let the renminbi float more freely against the dollar. He said that “a strong and durable recovery also requires countries not having an undue advantage. So we also discussed the need for currencies that are market-driven. As I told President Hu yesterday, the United States welcomes China’s decision to allow its currency to appreciate in response to market forces.” (BBC) China resisted including a line in the summit’s final statement on its currency commitment, saying it was a sovereign matter.
France is likely to be the next European state to announce deficit-cutting steps this week, with the cabinet due to approve measures on Wednesday to curb public spending, and further cuts to be spelled out in September in a tough 2011 budget. “We have an untouchable goal to reduce the deficit level by two points from 8 percent to 6 percent next year. That’s never been done before,” Budget Minister Francois Baroin told France 2 television, adding the 2011 budget would be “the most difficult in more than 30 years.” (Reuters)
Following the summit’s close on Sunday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper deplored the violence by “certain thuggish criminal element.” (The Globe & Mail) Toronto is slowly returning to normal.Shopkeepers on Monday were cleaning up the mess left by Black Bloc protesters and police officers were standing down. However, police continued to maintain a visible presence at downtown street corners. The security fence that surrounded the site where the G20 leaders met was starting to be dismantled. Reporters arrived for early-morning shifts at the CBC and said that for the first time in three days, they did not have to show special identification to police officers guarding the security fence. The CBC building in Toronto is within the security zone. Transportation systems, closed or operating on special schedules or routes because of the meetings and violent demonstrations, returned to their regular schedules.
Police said the 77 CCTV cameras set up for the G20 will be taken down – it’s just not clear when. Police still have information about upcoming protests, said ISU spokesman Constable Rodney Petroski. “When they’re confident the security risk is over, the cameras will come down.” (The Globe & Mail)
Along King Street in the heart of Toronto’s financial district, there were few signs of the tumultuous weekend. Some windows were still bordered up. A few traffic disruptions remained early Monday around the security fence area, likely due to fence removal. Police allowed motorists to drive through the area.