Monday, June 28, 2010

More arrests than the October Crisis

I'm reeling somewhat from what happened in Toronto over the weekend. So much of it was so unnecessary - a contentious (and frankly, not all that useful) summit in the core of a major city, over a billion dollars spent on security, rent-a-cops from across the country patrolling in full riot gear, and a few dolts ruining an otherwise peaceful set of protests. Add on to that the effective detention of protestors and onlookers in a police cordon at Queen & Spadina, the assaults on journalists, and the destruction of property, and it's hard not to believe that our system of justice and policing is fundamentally broken at a number of levels.

I don't have a lot of concrete suggestions on how to improve things. But there is one thing that really needs to be highlighted. During the FLQ crisis in October 1970, which followed a seven-year campaign of bombing, which led to a number of deaths, and the two kidnappings of Pierre Laporte and James Cross, Quebec police were given extraordinary powers to arrest and detain suspected FLQ terrorists under the War Measures Act. After all of that very real and violent buildup, the police arrested a total of 465 people.

What does it say about our society when a small number of thugs engage in some vandalism and this is used by the police and state as justification for the arbitrary detention of almost twice as many people as were arrested during an actual terrorist crisis? It's not hard to argue that we are on a slippery slope with regards to our civil liberties.

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