Toronto: Court Approves Two Class-Action Lawsuits over 2010 G20 Kettling Incident

Update: see previous posts – December 6, 2015 G20 Kettling Victims Will Have to Wait Until April 2016 for Sentencing of David (Mark) Fenton, August 25, 2015 G20: Toronto Police Supt. Convicted Over 5 Years Later, After “Kettling” Incidents

Toronto Police used the "kettling" tactic during the G20 held in Toronto to surround protesters and bystanders, near Queen St. and Spadina Ave. on June 27, 2010. Retired Judge John Hamilton also found Fenton guilty of discreditable conduct for keeping hundreds boxed in at Queen and Spadina during a thunderstorm. When the weather “turned ugly,” Fenton had the responsibility to ensure that prisoners had adequate protection from the elements, Hamilton ruled. Toronto Police Supt. David (Mark) Fenton will face sentencing under the Police Services Act which will begin on December 21, 2015 almost 6 years after the incident.
Toronto Police used the “kettling” tactic during the G20 held in Toronto to surround protesters and bystanders, near Queen St. and Spadina Ave. on June 27, 2010. The Courts have approved class- action suits in this matter.

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First class-actions involving group arrests to be certified in Ontario

More than 1,000 people arrested in large groups and held in “inhumane conditions” at a makeshift detention centre during the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto won the right to proceed with two class-action lawsuits against police authorities Wednesday.

The Ontario Court of Appeal approved the two class-actions over “kettling” — confining scores of people at downtown Toronto intersections for several hours — and alleged civil rights abuses that occurred nearly six years ago during the three-day global summit.

The G20 held in Toronto in 2010 had many unwelcomed comments emanating from judge's who closely examined it. In one case, R. v. Bodin, Justice Sachs said the following: “The contempt demonstrated by this behaviour has the eerie overtones of the worst sort of abuse orchestrated by fascist states,”. Not surprisingly, convicted Toronto Police Supt. David (Mark) Fenton, referred to the G20 protesters as "terrorists" and treated them accordingly. He threatened to remove the framed Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms from his wall if convicted.
Police at the G20 in Toronto in 2010.

The court’s decision emphasizes that police cannot arrest a group of civilians “as a way of ‘fishing’ for particular individuals.” It also highlights the role these class actions would play in forcing police behaviour to change.

I lost faith in the police. – Sherry Good, plaintiff

“There have been non-binding recommendations before but now we have binding legal process, which can actually make changes happen,” counsel Kent Elson told CBC News.

Mr. Paul J.J. Cavalluzzo was appointed to the Order of Canada on September 12, 2014. This honour recognized his dedication to the pursuit of social justice as both a constitutional and labour lawyer. “You don’t do that in this country. This is not a police state, this is Canada,” said Paul Cavalluzzo, a lawyer for some of the “kettling” complainants and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Mr. Paul J.J. Cavalluzzo was appointed to the Order of Canada on September 12, 2014. This honour recognized his dedication to the pursuit of social justice as both a constitutional and labour lawyer. “You don’t do that in this country. This is not a police state, this is Canada,” said Paul Cavalluzzo, a lawyer for some of the “kettling” complainants and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.

The lawsuits allege people were mass-arrested indiscriminately and held in “inhumane conditions” at a detention centre located inside an unused film studio on Eastern Avenue.

“What happened to them was terrible. They were arrested without cause,” Elson said. “That shouldn’t happen in a democratic country like ours.”

These are the first class actions involving group arrests to be certified in the province.

Lawyer Eric Gillespie said the “groundbreaking” decision could help guard the basic freedoms of all Canadians.

He noted that in the wake of the event many of the reforms recommended have not been implemented.

“This decision may help move in that direction,” he said.

Elson said it could lead to the disclosure of confidential police documents and tapes about what happened during that weekend, as well as “positive reforms about policing.”

“What we’re trying to do is make sure the spread of [kettling] is stopped,” he said.

Following the decision, lead plaintiff Sherry Good said she was delighted and called on police to make changes and “prove to us that this will never happen again.”

Sherry Good G20
Sherry Good, the lead plaintiff for people who were ‘kettled’ during the G20 summit, says she wants to see police reforms. (CBC)

Good was among dozens of people “kettled” at Queen Street and Spadina Avenue for 4½ hours in torrential rain.

“It was extremely scary.”

“I lost faith in the police. I lost faith in our charter.”

Good said she wants to see consequences for those responsible and police reforms.

Tommy Taylor, the other lead plaintiff representing those sent to the east-end Toronto detention centre, likened the arrests and conditions as being “treated worse than animals in a zoo.”

Tommy Taylor G20 Lawsuit
Tommy Taylor is representing those who were sent to the Eastern Avenue detention centre during the G20 summit in Toronto. (CBC)

“We want justice to be served. We don’t want this to happen to any other Canadian, ever again,” he said.

Taylor was held for 24 hours and released without charge.

“I actually passed out begging for water,” he said.

“For Canada, it was a pretty big failure, pretty dehumanizing experience.”

Originally ruled against

The Toronto police board wanted the Appeal Court to quash the class proceedings, which had already been subject to two lower court rulings.

A judge had originally ruled against certifying a class action, but that was overturned on an initial appeal to Ontario’s Divisional Court, which instead split the action in two.

In August, Supt. Mark Fenton was found guilty of discreditable conduct and unnecessary exercise of authority in connection with ordering two mass arrests during that weekend.

In a statement Wednesday, Andy Pringle, the chair of the Toronto police board, said the board will review the decision and consider its options.

“We are committed to continuing to participate in this legal process as it moves forward.”

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