In remembrance of the Charter of Rights and Freedom

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
- John F. Kennedy (1917 - 1963), in a speech at the White House, 1962

I write this on the eve of Remembrance Day, 2010, as PM Harper flies to South Korea for a repeat performance of the G20, as three days of testimonies unfold in Toronto and Montreal to question RCMP conduct, and the government continues to refuse a public inquiry into the G20.

This judicial inquiry is morally imperative as it would enable the federal court to subpoena evidence from witnesses under oath to knit together the patchwork of incriminating evidence, establish the chain of command of policing during the G20, and finally assign culpability. Both parties are standing firm -- this all-encompassing inquiry must not be allowed happen. It may be the only issue they agree upon at this time, having closed ranks to goose-step around civil liberties. Meanwhile, PM Harper is fiddling while Rome burns, selling more of our assets to multinationals in South Korea. Has it occurred to him that Canada is not his to sell?

I dedicate this article to my grandfather, who fought in the First World War, and was one of the few who survived the air force. He came back so shell-shocked that if his family spoke while he drove, he had to pull over to the side of the road to calm down. Within my extended family, several members have been awarded Orders of Canada for public service. I am, however, a vilified "protester," as I believe that there must be a full inquiry into the G8/G20 Summit so that both levels of government are forced to responsibility for the gross abuse of police power, violation of civil liberties and powers of taxation, and desecration of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. If the Charter cannot defend its own constitution and abrogation of civil rights, it is a constitution no longer.

It is exactly one week since I witnessed the voting down of the second reading of Bill 121, a public interest investigation into the G8/G20 Summit tabled by Welland's NDP MPP, Peter Kormos, by eight ayes to 28 nays in Queen's Park. Upon the resounding "nay" across the floor by the consolidated Liberals and Conservatives, there was a unanimous, audible gasp by those in the gallery. Included in that singular voice was my own, and within an hour, having sped away on my round legs, I was listening to Chris Hedges talk about his new book, "The Death of the Liberal Class" at the Munk School for Global Affairs. His lecture was a play-by-play of what I had seen at Queen's Park, and spoke directly to me.

Could it be, according to Chris Hedges, that the liberal-left -- unions, churches and universities and the press -- has lost moral suasion as a guiding voice for democratic dialogue? Have we abandoned our moral compass in favour of corporate elitism? And have we allowed the gutting of moral values, and the erosion of civil liberties, for financial gain? As I watched the provincial NDP fight back at Queen's Park, and be mocked for their efforts by the opposing parties, I thought no -- it is worse -- citizens' rights are being viewed with contempt as they contest the streamlining of economic interests, the growing division between the rich and poor, and the erosion of the environment. As Chris Hedges notes, without a robust liberal voice to engage in this debate, there is a very real danger that things will degrade into violence as the middle and working classes become increasingly disenfranchised, angry and confused. Internationally, strikes rage, generated by falsely imposed austerity measures imposed by the banks, and Chris Hedges predicts that the U.S., then Canada, will be next, on the front line. A cynical friend said that no doubt the Conservatives had a contingency fund for legal challenges as part of their G20 bottom line, a line item right after their $500, 000 worth of delegate party favours -- glow sticks, hand sanitizer, and $100 pens.

At Queen's Park, throughout the presentation of the bill, I was distressed by the disregard the opposition had for the NDP. They held extended conversations during their presentation for C-121, loud enough to be heard by me in the upper gallery, to show their displeasure at the possibility of the second reading of Bill 121. For me, as a Canadian citizen, it was a momentous historic occasion; for the Liberals and Conservatives, it was a farce of the highest order, worthy of a William Hogarth cartoon -- when Peter Kormos mentioned the editorial in the Star demanding a formal inquiry, a Liberal MPP turned to the fashion section, searching for it there. I watched her.

An MPP from Muskoka region mentioned the success of the G8 in Huntsville, although I heard how golfers were losing balls off the green, and militia were crawling out of the brush, holding the golf ball up, and warning them not to hit off the fairway again.

I have always been ambivalent about Ontario Parliament Network, the official channel of the provincial legislature, but I was glad that it was recording and broadcasting this debate for posterity, as it was clear that those present at Queen's Park had no regard for it. MPPs, please be aware that you are being observed. I have also heard how the level of discourse, as transcribed in the Hansard, the official record, is the lowest it has ever been historically, but the resounding speeches of Peter Kormos, Andrea Horwath and Cheri DiNovo showed courage, a monumental standing up for the underdog. As I left the gallery, I made the universal symbol for typing to Cheri DiNovo. I will make my own citizen's Hansard of events, and I will remember this travesty of justice in the defence of the Charter, and my grandfather, who fought for my right to protest, and a kinder, gentler Canada. During the G20, police erased incriminating photographs on iPhones by resetting the factory settings to default, and stomping on memory cards, to erase incriminating evidence of police brutality. I refuse to let these memories be erased.

Later, at the lecture, deeply shaken, I asked Chris Hedges about the vilification of protesters, and he spoke of having his microphone cut off, twice, during a lecture, and being escorted off a university campus. The press reported that he had created a riot, and the university sent him his coat by mail. Protesters, intellectuals, academics, environmentalists- these are all epithets, just as a Liberal MP pointed out the eloquence of Peter Kormos was due to the background as a lawyer during the Bill 121 debate. Those who ask for educated discussion are discredited to enable bigotry and prejudice, as PM Harper plays his role as ideologue to evade facts, discourage analysis, and hold court through emotion. Elitists, environmentalists, lawyers, lefties, union members, protesters -- these have all become dirty words -- just read the comments section online, and see how democratic discourse has descended into name calling, supported by this new form of government.

There will be no justice until there is a formal, public inquiry which knits together the disparate inquiries into a cohesive series of events enabled by a chain of command, and, yes, assigns blame. We deserve to know what happened, and not to be distracted by the pomp and circumstance of yet another G20 Summit, quick on the heels of our own. Regulation 233/10, the five-metre fence rule, will lead right back to the Premier McGuinty's office, then the Prime Minister's Office.

Investigation of this fallacious law will prove PM Harper's desire to cut away the backbone of peaceful resistance to humiliate youth, because they were targeted for their courage, education, and peaceful resistance. PM Harper used the Summits to ensure future political passivity to humiliate caring, educated and engaged youth. The young woman, hit by rubber bullets, will never return to Toronto.

As an educator, this is what I will never forget, and as a citizen, I will never forget that my grandfather fought for naught, because I can be taxed to the hilt to have my civil liberties suspended for a political spectacle enabling police brutality and civilian abuse. Canada is not safer since the summits, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been allowed to be put into question, and with that, the fundamental rights of every citizen. Shame.

Co-curator and contributing blogger for The Real G8/G20, Elizabeth Littlejohn blogs at Railroaded by Metrolinx


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