Green party leader Elizabeth May joins calls for public inquiry on G20 security
"Were there in Toronto, under any of the various agencies—RCMP, the Toronto police, OPP, CSIS—or any other contracted security force used in G20, were any of them actively promoting vandalism? We have a right to find out,” May told the Straight by phone today (June 30) from her home in Sidney.
That’s why the Greens’ Saanich-Gulf Islands candidate is echoing calls from Amnesty International, the Ontario New Democratic Party, and others for a public inquiry to examine the G8 and G20 security plans and the police response to the protests.
With South Korea chairing the G20 in 2010 and planning to hold a summit in November, May said she wants an inquiry to find out why Canada was hosting the meetings at all. According to her, an inquiry could also answer why Toronto—specifically its downtown core—was chosen, and why $1.2 billion was spent on security, when other countries have spent less.
“How much hardware is our government stockpiling to suppress citizen protest?” May asked. “I’d be interested to know that.”
As for what went on inside the G20 summit, which took place on June 26 and 27, May asserted that world leaders failed to act on climate change and neglected to address “casino capitalism”, while prioritizing deficit-reduction targets that will most likely hurt the poor.
May did refer to Canada’s contribution of $1.1 billion to a G8 initiative to improve maternal and child health in developing countries as “generous”. But she pointed out that amount is less than what it cost to hold the summits.
“Canada has, I think, contaminated the issue and tainted the aid we’re providing through this quite unacceptable, to put it at a minimum; illogical; and unhelpful ideological stance that no Canadian money can go into the provision of abortion services,” she added. “That is bizarre and unhelpful, and certainly no less than the British medical journal, the Lancet, said it contravened all common sense—and it does.”
May was in Toronto a few days before the G8 summit began on June 25, and she recalled that it was difficult to get to Union Station, a major downtown commuter hub, due to security barricades and the already heavy police presence. She remarked that authorities promoted an “atmosphere of oppression and edginess” in the city ahead of the summits.
“I think we need to look at this textbook approach, and say, ”˜Did the over-militarization of the advance preparations increase the risks of violence?’” May said.
The Green leader noted that she’s “very careful” about using the word violence.
“I don’t like using violence in the context of smashing windows,” she said. “That’s vandalism. I disapprove of it entirely. I disagree with my colleagues in the movement who think we have to embrace diversity of tactics. I don’t think that Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King ever embraced diversity of tactics. They were clear about what’s acceptable in civil disobedience and what isn’t.”
May said she’s calling on the opposition party leaders to join her in demanding that Prime Minister Stephen Harper launch a full-blown inquiry. Another question an inquiry could answer is why police abandoned the cruisers that were set ablaze, she noted.
“I have questions that I want answered,” May said, “and I think a lot of Canadians do.”
Riot police charge G20 protesters singing O Canada.
You can follow Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.