Opposition accuses Tories of ducking scrutiny of their role in matter
Ottawa — Tuesday July 13, 2010
Stephen Harper’s Conservatives are filibustering to block opposition efforts to launch hearings on policing at the Toronto G20 summit, accusing political rivals of seeking a platform to build sympathy for “thugs and hooligans” who rioted there.
Parliament is adjourned for the summer, and the opposition majority – the NDP, Liberals and Bloc – forced the Commons committee on public safety to reconvene on Monday to vote on whether to start federal hearings on the G20 security.
But during a two-hour meeting, Conservative MPs on the committee repeatedly requested speaking time to object to holding an inquiry now, and the Tory chair refused opposition demands for a vote. Opposition MPs together can out-vote the Tories on the committee.
“I don’t agree with the NDP and the fact it seems to be lining itself up with anarchist groups that went to Toronto and caused damage,” Tory MP Dean Del Mastro told the committee. “To recall this committee on an emergency basis is nothing more than a cheap political stunt.”
Outside the security perimeter at the G20 summit, stores in downtown Toronto were vandalized and police cars were set ablaze. More than 1,000 people were arrested, but only 263 charged with anything more serious than breach of peace. And the methods police used to disperse and detain protesters have been criticized.
Opposition parties accused the Tories of ducking scrutiny of their role in the matter, saying Canadians deserve a federal review of the conduct of security forces and alleged civil liberties violations.
NDP MP Paul Dewar said dismissing hearings on the grounds that some protesters committed violence was scurrilous behaviour, saying it was the Harper government’s decision to hold the G20 summit in Toronto.
“When you have 1,000 people, the biggest mass arrest in Canadian history happen, someone’s got to be accountable. I think the accountability is with those who decided to have this meeting,” Mr. Dewar said.
The Tories said that Parliament should wait for the outcome of reviews conducted for the Toronto Police Services Board and the RCMP.
Bob Dechert, a Conservative MP, said he is concerned anarchists or other demonstrators could use Commons hearings to build sympathy. “They want to have the media attention to talk about how they were handled by the police and perhaps try to get out the message they didn’t get out during the protest because of the silly things – and actual very criminal things – they did to try to disrupt those summits.”
Liberal MP Mark Holland said opposition parties plan to continue the attempt to jump-start hearings on G20 policing.
The Liberal MP said the role the federal government played in the G20 security requires a far more exhaustive scrutiny than will come out of existing reviews.
He said it’s dishonest of the Tories to smear opposition parties as pro-violence.
“There is not a person … who does anything but condemn the violence that we saw. That’s not the issue here. The issue is the directives that were given and how this thing got so out of control,” Mr. Holland said.