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NEWS: Canadian Civil Liberties Association raises concerns about G8/G20 security measures

On Friday, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association released a statement about the security arrangements being made for the upcoming G8 summit in Huntsville and the G20 summit in Toronto.

The CCLA states, “Although the full extent of the security arrangements for the upcoming meetings is not yet public, it is clear that they will be unprecedented in Canada. The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is concerned about the impact that the G8 and G20 security measures will have on individual Canadians’ fundamental democratic rights, including Canadians’ liberty, privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and freedom of peaceful assembly.”

They highlight that, “Freedom of expression is protected throughout Canada: our country, and all of Toronto is a ‘free speech zone’. Protesters cannot be prevented from demonstrating outside of the ‘designated demonstration area’, particularly when the area set aside is situated in a place that is so remote from the meetings that protesters cannot be directly seen or heard by the leaders. Therefore, it is appropriate for the police to acknowledge publicly the right of protesters. Language suggesting that protesters are strongly encouraged to gather in the free speech zones is inappropriate.” (The police have done this, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3457.)

The CCLA also notes, “The establishment of security perimeters was addressed at the APEC Inquiry. In the Commission’s Interim Report, Mr. Hughes endorsed a guiding principle that ‘the security perimeter [may] be enlarged for non-security reasons to the extent necessary to ensure that the participants are able to conduct their businesses effectively…’. He also noted, however, that a fence line designed to significantly distance protesters and maintain a ‘retreat-like atmosphere’ could well violate the Charter. The effective conduct of business does not require that protesters be so far removed from the meeting site that they can be neither seen nor heard. Particularly where there is a primary fence to ensure safety around conference venues and delegate hotels, any further restrictions on mobility or protest must be fully and carefully justified. Any extension beyond what is needed to ensure the safe and effective conduct of the meeting will unjustifiably infringe individuals’ freedom of movement, expression, peaceful assembly and association.”

The Council of Canadians agrees with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association on these key points. In early-March, we stated that, “Thousands of people are expected to raise their concerns about the destructive G20 agenda when the G20 summit is held in Toronto this June 26-27. The Council of Canadians will be there focusing on how the G20 impedes fair trade, climate justice, the human right to water, and democratic governance. A key element in the ability to raise these concerns through public protest is the right to be close enough to be seen and heard by those in power making the decisions that affect us all. While the safety of public figures is critical, that concern must also be balanced with a range of factors including respect for people’s daily lives in the city, the needs of local businesses, and basic civil liberties, including the right to protest. Security zones should not be imposed (in this case by the RCMP-led Integrated Security Unit), but scrutinized and subject to these considerations and public input.”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association statement is at http://ccla.org/?page_id=5561.

Our comments from March 1 are noted at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=2991.