My Open Letter to Bill Blair

Posted on July 1, 2010

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This is the first of a number of open letters that I will be writing over the next few days. I encourage anybody reading this to do the same. The Toronto Police Service needs to know that their conduct this past weekend was not okay. If you don’t have time to write a full letter of your own, feel free to use mine as a template.

Mr. Blair,

When you took the oath of office at the beginning of your policing career, you swore to uphold the constitution of Canada, and to discharge your duties according to the law. During your security operations on the streets of Toronto during the G20 summit this past weekend, you broke these solemn promises.

Officers under your command committed countless illegal acts. Illegal searches were conducted far away from the security fence. In the process of breaking up peaceful demonstrations, your officers assaulted peaceful protesters, journalists and innocent bystanders with batons, tear gas, pepper spray, and plastic bullets. Many of these people were arrested without cause. The arrestees were brought to a detention center where they were denied access to a phone call and legal counsel. Some were kept for extended periods of time without being charged.

You personally have been dishonest in your dealings with the public. Your statements that police violence was warranted to contain black bloc violence are total nonsense. Video evidence and personal accounts suggest that the majority of the detainees were either peaceful protesters or innocent bystanders. The fact that 700 people are being arrested without charge only serves to confirm this. Arresting hundreds of innocent people in order to apprehend a small gang of vandals is not good law enforcement. Your blatant lies about the Public Works Act as it applied around the security fence are especially pernicious. In lying to the public about this, you fabricated expanded police powers that never existed. A police officer does not have the right to modify the law as he sees fit. That right is reserved for the democratically elected representatives of the people.

A man in your position should be aware that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees freedom of speech, association and peaceful assembly. It also contains provisions against unreasonable search and seizure, and arbitrary detention and imprisonment. Prisoners are guaranteed access to legal counsel without delay. Your officers violated these rights over the course of the weekend. The conduct of your police force was therefore illegal. You were, and continue to be, in violation of your oath to uphold the law.

For these reasons, I demand your immediate resignation from the office of Chief of Police, as well as an apology to the victims of your misconduct. So long as you remain in office, the men and women under your command will not have the public trust.

Yours Sincerely,

Cameron Roberts

I realize that he will probably delete this after reading the first few lines, but it is only fair that we ask him to step down with a (very) tiny shred of dignity before we, as citizens, initiate a democratic process that will strip him of his job. That process will be the subject of my next set of open letters.

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