THE DEMOCRATIC REPORTER
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Opening comments: More at the end.
The comments from those in government and who know more about Chief Fantino's and his methods. Clearly shows they too would not trust him with more power.
Toronto Star Mar. 22, 2003 BY RICHARD BRENNAN - QUEEN'S PARK BUREAU
Police bid to limit protests criticized
The head of the Ontario Federation of Labour blasted Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino yesterday for trying to limit demonstrations, including seeking the power for police to decide who can protest.
"In his view they (the limits) would help to create order, but in our view they are clearly more about restricting people's democratic right to protest," OFL president Wayne Samuelson told a news conference.
"What I find most upsetting is that he is going to control people's right to demonstrate based on some arbitrary right he would have to give them a permit or not give them a permit," Samuelson said.
He said he called the news conference yesterday because the United Nations had designated it the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination to honour the victims of the Sharpesville massacre in South Africa when 60 peaceful demonstrators against apartheid were gunned down by police. Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of the Sharpesville massacre.
As recently as February, Fantino recommended to the Toronto Police Services Board that it ask Ottawa to amend the Criminal Code to provide for "deterrent sentences" for offences committed at demonstrations and that it request Toronto City Council to pass a bylaw to regulate and control demonstrations. "Permits should be conditional on approval by the local police service," stated Fantino in his report the board.
"Any history of violence, damage or abuse of a prior permit should automatically disqualify any individual or group from obtaining a permit or participating in a demonstration for a period of at least two years," said the chief, who could not be reached yesterday for further comment.
The report, which also suggests that all organizations should have to post a bond before getting a protest permit, has been deferred to Thursday's meeting of the board.
Norm Gardiner, chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, said Fantino isn't trying to restrict freedom of speech but is concerned about the public.
"There is no intent here to suppress peaceful demonstration, it's only to make sure the demonstrations are peaceful and conducted in a responsible manner. This is the whole thing behind the chief's initiative here, it was not to do away with protest or demonstrations at all," he said.
But Samuelson said the chief's proposals are a "huge overreaction" to the few violent protests in Toronto, including the highly publicized riot at Queen's Park in June 2000. Three Toronto activists are now on trial for their part in that Ontario Coalition Against Poverty protest: John Clarke, 48, is charged with counselling others to take part in a riot and assault police; and Gaetan Heroux, 47, and Stefan Pilipa, 27, are charged with participating in the incident.
"There are some pretty undemocratic, and I think scary, suggestions being put forward by the chief," Samuelson added.
Toronto councillor David Miller said Fantino is "unbelievable sometimes," and described his recommendations "as entirely unnecessary."
"We still have freedom of speech in this country and I don't believe that the police department gets to say who and who does not get to exercise it.
"I think it shows a lack of judgment that they're so focused on the one bad protest out of the many thousands that have happened in Toronto. I don't think you can restrict somebody's right to free speech because of something they may have done in the past," Miller said.
Do you want to do something about this?
Before the election and get this issue talked about?
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