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Civil-liberties report ratchets up pressure for public inquiry into G20 summit

A new report into police conduct at the Toronto G20 summit concludes that only a federal-provincial public inquiry will get to the bottom of who called the shots in the run up to violent confrontations and the largest mass arrests in Canadian history.

The report by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the National Union of Public and General Employees summarizes concerns from the public that surfaced during three days of hearings the groups organized in November.

In addition to the reasons behind the 1,105 arrests by police, the authors of the report say comments from the public raise concerns that undercover police informants may have endorsed or supported the public displays of vandalism that were then used as justification for further arrests.

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The call for a public inquiry is on track to become a formal position of the House of Commons later this month. The Commons public safety committee is scheduled to issue a report on G20 security later this month and all three opposition parties – representing a voting majority – support the call for a public inquiry.

A spokesman for federal Public Safety minister Vic Toews made clear Monday that the government does not share that view.

"As the Minister of Public Safety has always said, specific bodies exist to handle complaints regarding police conduct and it's appropriate for individuals to direct their concerns to those bodies," Chris McCluskey said. "The Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP is one such body and we look forward to reviewing the results."

At Queen's Park, Premier Dalton McGuinty is also resisting calls for an inquiry. He has appointed Ontario's former chief justice, Roy McMurtry, to investigate the controversial law the province amended before the G20. The amendment wasn't publicized and police led the public to believe it gave authorities extra powers to enforce security around the summit's perimeter in downtown Toronto.

"We've got five independent reviews taking place now," Mr. McGuinty told reporters on Monday. "I think that's a lot of expertise and independent perspective."

At a news conference on Parliament Hill to release the report, CCLA general counsel Nathalie Des Rosiers said none of the existing reviews are powerful enough to compel testimony and none are broad enough to get to the bottom of what political decisions were made.

For instance, questions were raised as to why no visible effort was made by police or fire officials to put out fires that engulfed several police cars during the protests. The dramatic images of vandalism preceded the majority of the arrests.

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The authors say only an inquiry can find out whether that was a deliberate police tactic to win public support for moving in on protesters or whether there were other reasons.

James Clancy, the union's president, said he predicts an inquiry will find federal political leaders, including from the office of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, were very much involved in the security decisions surrounding the G20.

"I would predict that this goes right up to the PMO's office," he said.

With a report from Karen Howlett in Toronto.

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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