Thursday, December 09, 2010

Ontario Ombudsman Report on G20 Crackdown First To Use Social Media

Earlier this week, Ontario Ombudsman André Marin released his report into the use of a secret regulation that gave police what he called “extravagant” and “likely illegal” powers to crack down on mostly peaceful people protesting last summer’s G20 summit in Toronto or to arrest other uninvolved, simply curious citizens caught in the vicinity of the security fence around the summit location.

What many people have overlooked is contained in Marin’s brief remarks about the essential contribution of social media in writing the report:
Our report is full of stories from people who encountered this treatment, as well as photos that capture the unforgettable scenes of those two days. For the first time, we used social media in our investigation to ask members of the public to come forward, and to track events as they happened. People responded in droves with their stories, their photos and their videos, including some that have never been made public before today. To my knowledge, this is the first time that any ombudsman investigation has used social media, and I can attest that it has been a very useful tool. I also want to thank all those who came to us with information.
The social media genie is truly out of the bottle.

Marin's press conference can be seen on YouTube.

Today, he released a new statement to the media in which he criticizes people who tried to "downplay the questionable use of Regulation 233/10" (the "secret legislation" referred to above):
"The point is being made that almost all of the arrests that took place were made under the power of the police to arrest persons found “breaching the peace.” It is important when considering this information to understand that while there may have been only two arrests using Regulation 233/10, many people were detained, searched, questioned, and redirected under its authority. That regulation played a huge role in the violations of civil liberties that occurred. Arrests were only a small part of it (...)

"Things change, of course, when extraordinary legislation such as Regulation 233/10 under the Public Works Protection Act is passed. The police gain extensive power over members of the public they would not otherwise have. They gain the power to detain and search anyone entering or approaching a designated area, even if that person changes their mind and offers to walk away. The police need no grounds or no suspicion. They can just do it. And they gain the power to demand answers to questions – even the right to silence disappears. Anyone who fails to remain or submit to a search or to answer questions demanded by the police commits an offence and can be arrested. Laws like this are a civil liberties game changer."

"In the end, when measuring the impact of Regulation 233/10 on civil liberties, it is far too simple to count the number of people arrested. What also has to be counted is the number of people stopped under its authority – so their identification could be produced or because they were wearing black clothing; the number of people questioned under its authority because they were walking in areas rightly or wrongly considered by officers to be protected by the law; the number of people searched under its authority – who open their purses or endure pat-downs; the number of people who have items seized from them under the authority of the statute; and the number of people who were intimidated from walking in public spaces because officers claim the authority to control their movements using this law, including by telling them they are “banned.” Arrests are, of course, the most extreme intrusion that Regulation 233/10 offered. But counting arrests is a glib sound-bite, not a serious response to the impact this legislation had on Ontario’s citizens."

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:31 pm

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