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G20: The Police, Governments And The Queer Communities

August 6th, 2010

Historically there has been widespread concern within the queer communities about unequal enforcement of the law. Queers are disproportionately targeted as being perceived as more serious offenders meriting more severe punishment.

Policing of the recent G20 Summit in Toronto has aggravated that concern, particularly in respect to the reported attitude of the police toward queer people who were detained. Our concerns go beyond this to the very laws that appear to have precipitated these detentions. Not only the enforcement of which the police themselves have retrospectively admitted was not legal, and which flies in the face of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but also the secretive way in which those regulations were supposedly enacted. Beyond that, we are concerned about the pressure from the federal government to enact tough on crime laws which appear to focus on establishing a police state; a state which is exemplified by the attitude of those who made and enforced laws during the G20 Summit.

The weakening of laws designed to protect the queer communities has the incremental effect of undoing the long term efforts we have undertaken to acquire such protection. We have been acutely aware of the fact that laws alone do not protect us from the attitudes of members of the public who are hostile toward us and wish to continue to discriminate. Such attitudes are even more devastating in less densely populated areas where the protection of a queer community is not available. The fact that many of the police who were brought to Toronto to participate in G20 enforcement came from less populated areas not only explains the more negative attitude experienced by members of the queer communities from the police, but also emphasizes the tremendous amount of work that still to needs to be done to reduce such discrimination; work which was set back considerably by the experience of the G20 Summit.

While we do support the work of police forces across Ontario in protecting the rights of queer and trans citizens – mainly because it is their responsibility to do so – we in no way support the unwarranted police actions that were committed during the G20 in the name of national security. We urge the Police Liaison Officer to differentiate between the two positions and to stop misleading the public into believing that queer and trans people were unquestionably supportive of the police violence and mass arrests.

Queer Ontario supports calls for an independent public inquiry into the actions surrounding the G20 Summit. We demand answers to the following questions:

  • Why were laws and regulations altered and not public prior to the G20 Summit?
  • To what extend was enactment and enforcement of such laws and regulations illegal (e.g., forced identification, search, seizure, confinement and detention) and what will be done to rectify that situation?
  • Why did police refuse to intervene during property destruction on Saturday when they were available and the offenders apparent, and chose instead to kettle and arrest numerous others who were peacefully demonstrating, ostensibly to locate those who were doing the destruction?
  • Who was responsible for the orders during these incidents?
  • Why were sexist and homophobic slurs by the police allowed in the detention centre?
  • Why did the police not provide humane and appropriate holding facilities?
  • Why were the Toronto Police Services Board, Toronto City Council and Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, quick to lavish praise on the police handling of the G20 Summit, in the face of a public outcry for an inquiry?
  • Why has Prime Minister Stephen Harper been near completely silent of the numerous questions and concerns raised about hosting the G20 Summit in Toronto and its aftermath?
  • Why did the police block a group of community members from entering the 519 Community Centre while the Police Pride reception took place on the second floor?
  • Was Chief Blair’s attendance at the reception so crucial that it justified putting 519 staff in the awful position of negotiating between the police and community members?
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