Saturday, July 17, 2010

Rally for Civil Liberties

Police State
Today was a day of demonstrations across Canada, to protest against police actions at the G20 meeting in Toronto last month.

The Ottawa rally was held at the Human Rights Monument, probably a wise choice since the crowd of a few hundred would have looked a little lost on Parliament Hill. The rally was organized by Canadians Advocating Political Participation (CAPP, formerly known as Canadians Against the Prorogation of Parliament). Participants included representatives from the Canadian Federation of Students, the Public Service Alliance of Canada, and the Ottawa Chapter of the Raging Grannies. Several photographers and videographers were in attendance, but I didn't notice any representatives of the mainstream press. I saw no CBC trucks, no press passes and no CTV reporters trying to film and ask questions at the same time.

A petition demanding a public inquiry into last month's events in Toronto was displayed on the stage throughout the rally and available for demonstrators to sign. Other demands included the repealing of Ontario's Public Works Protection Act, which was used extensively at the G20 meeting in order to arrest and detain protesters. Among other provisions, the Act allows police to "search, without warrant, any person entering or attempting to enter a public work", and to "refuse permission to any person to enter a public work and use such force as is necessary".

What remains to be seen is whether or not today's rally will make a ripple in the stagnant waters of Canadian politics. While I'm always encouraged to see citizens of all ages gathering in public to stand up and be counted, CTV reported on July 12 on a Harris-Decima poll showing that fully two thirds of Canadians believe the police response to G20 protests was appropriate. The McGuinty government will, no doubt, be delighted to seize that argument against an independant public inquiry -- most of the public thinks nothing untoward went down in Toronto.

Between public indifference and media silence, it would be tempting to conclude that today's rally was an exercise in futility, but I like to think that all public protests are good for something. I cannot help but notice that Stephen Harper's government, for instance, has been increasingly and remarkably quiet about all those Conservative issues that are supposed to define a Conservative government. Harper is still running the country like a cross between Big Brother and Mr. Magoo, but at least he's been keeping quiet about abortion and same-sex marriage and all those familiar Conservative scarecrows.

I for one am counting my blessings.

I have more pictures of yesterday's rally on my Facebook page.