Toronto G20, 4 years later: 18 disturbing facts all Canadians should know

The Toronto G20 Summit of June 26-27, 2010, hosted by Stephen Harper, was an incredibly expensive undertaking that resulted in massive human rights violations against members of the public at the hands of the police. Despite this, politicians refuse to call a full public inquiry and hold police—as well as themselves—to account … something to think about on the 4th anniversary of the Toronto G20, and as we approach this year’s Canada Day celebrations.

1. Over half a billion dollars was spent on security for the three-day G8/G20 summit.

The final tally of security costs for the three-day G8 and G20 summits, held back-to-back, was $676 million. About $330 million of that went to the RCMP and the rest to various participating police forces, including the Toronto Police Service. The total overall cost of the summits was roughly $858 million.

A couple of comparisons to put this staggering sum in perspective: it’s higher than the $818 million currently being spent to build a 36 kilometre light rail and bus rapid transit system in the Waterloo region, and it’s almost 43 times greater than what the federal government says it will save each year (i.e., $20 million) due to cuts to refugee health care implemented by the Conservatives.

2. The largest mass-arrest in Canadian peacetime history happened during the summit.

The 1,105 arrests made over the G20 weekend constituted a new record for mass arrests in Canada during peaceful times. Stunningly, this figure was more than twice as large as the almost 500 citizens who were detained or arrested during the October 1970 FLQ Crisis in Quebec, when Pierre Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act and deployed soldiers throughout the province. (This record mass arrest was surpassed in 2012 by the arrests of protesters during the 2012 student strikes in Quebec, though these occurred across the province and over a longer period.)

The vast majority of those arrested were not charged or had their charges dropped, strongly indicating that they were unlawfully arrested in the first place.

3. Hundreds were unlawfully detained—kettled— across the city.


Hundreds of peaceful protesters were detained across the city, including in major ‘kettles’ organized by police, in which rows of riot cops in full gear trapped large groups of people in intersections, against buildings and within city blocks for hours, even as heavy rain poured down. In the words of the Toronto Star:

As the skies opened, dumping enough rain to flood the Don Valley Parkway, masses of people were arrested: peaceful protesters, curious onlookers, passersby carrying grocery bags. Many were packed into paddy wagons, dropped off outside city limits or taken to the G20 temporary jail. Dozens were held in the downpour with their hands zip-tied behind their backs.

It was later found that RCMP officers assisting Toronto Police in the manoeuvre were actually violating their own policy against kettling. In 2011, following intense public pressure, Toronto police announced it would never again kettle citizens.


4. The Liberal provincial government secretly gave police ‘phenomenal powers’.

A December 2010 report from Ontario Omubudsman André Marin slammed the Liberal government for secretly giving police “phenomenal powers” that opened the door to mass arrests and civil rights violations. These special powers seemingly allowed for the so-called “five-meter rule” that required anyone passing within five meters of the conference security fence to submit to a search and ID check. However, it was revealed after the conference, and after citizens were arrested under the rule, that the five meter rule did not actually exist.

The Public Works Protection Act (PWPA)—the obscure Word War II-era legislation that gave police special powers—remains on the books despite many promises by the governing Liberals to get rid of it. In his June 2014 annual report, Ombudsman Marin warned that:

The PWPA featured prominently in the massive civil rights abuses during the G20 summit in Toronto four years ago, and the government has twice introduced bills to replace it – only to have them die on the order paper (most recently on May 2, 2014). Given its checkered history, it is disturbing that the PWPA is still on the books, particularly when one considers that Ontario is in the midst of preparations for hosting the Pan Am and Parapan Am Games in Toronto in 2015.

5. Police engaged in rampant arbitrary search and seizures.


Police forces operating in Toronto engaged in arbitrary search and seizures across the core, often violating basic Charter rights. The Office of the Independent Police Review Director concluded in 2012 that “many police officers ignored the basic rights citizens have under the Charter and overstepped their authority when they stopped and searched them arbitrarily and without reasonable grounds in law.”

In one infamous incident (see above video at 1:53), a York Region police officer, Sgt. Mark Charlesbois, told Paul Figueiras, a citizen refusing to be searched, that “this ain’t Canada right now,” and that “[t]here is no civil rights here…” Figueiras later filed a complaint with the York Police Services Board but it was rejected. He then filed a lawsuit, but Ontario Superior Court Justice Frederick Myers ruled in April 2014 that Sgt. Charlesbois and his fellow officers acted with “admirable restraint”. The decision is being appealed.

6. Police told demonstrators to go to a “designated speech zone” and then attacked them.

Police set up what they referred to as a “designated speech zone” at Queen’s Park (which was also the meeting point for the main march on the first day of the summit) and invited citizens protesting the summit to assemble and demonstrate there. However, by the late afternoon of June 26, police surrounded and charged the area, physically assaulting peacefully assembled citizens who had accepted the police’s earlier invitation.

7. Police violently assaulted peaceful citizens.

Throughout the weekend, numerous citizens experienced physical assaults at the hands of the police. Some were involved in peacefully protesting the G20, while others were simply going about their business in the city.  One man, John Pruyn, who wears a prosthetic leg, provided the following testimony at the CCLA’s Breach of the Peace Hearings:

The police ordered me to walk (…) I said ‘I can’t’. Then one of the police grabbed my artificial leg and yanked it right off my leg for no apparent reason (…) He pulled it off, and then told me to put it back on. I just looked at him (…) I couldn’t believe what he was saying. Of course, I can’t put my leg back on with my hands tied behind my back (…) so then he says ‘hop’. And again I said ‘I can’t’. Then he says ‘you asked for it’. So then one police grabbed me under each arm and they started to drag me backwards. As they were dragging me backwards we went over pavement and I had on a short sleeve shirt and my elbows were digging right into the pavement and they were gouged out, both elbows, both sides.


In another prominent case involving Adam Nobody, a Toronto resident who was simply walking around to see what was going on with the demonstrations, police officers repeatedly punched, kneed, kicked and hit him with batons, shattering his cheekbone and breaking his nose.


In 2012, in submitting his report slamming police for using excessive force during the summit, the head of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director said: “It is fortunate that, in all the confusion, there were no deaths.”

8. Police detained and arrested journalists and physically assaulted them.

A number of journalists were detained or arrested by police across the city during the summit. These included two National Post photographers, Brett Gundlock and Colin O’Connor, who were arrested the evening of June 26, as well as a freelance journalist for the Guardian (UK), Jesse Rosenfeld, who was beaten and arrested in front of Novotel. The latter incident was witnessed by Steve Paiken, host of TVO’s Agenda, who said a police officer “walked over and just … gave him one in the gut…Jesse fell down face-first onto the ground. The same officer then came back, elbowed him right on the back.”

Police also arrested alternative media journalists Ryan Mitchell and Lisa Walter and, for this, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) eventually ordered that the two arresting officers be charged under the Police Services Act. According to Mitchell’s account, the officer arresting him said: “I’m going to love shoving this baton up your ass.”

Meanwhile, Lisan Jutras, a Globe and Mail journalist, and Liem Vu, a National Post intern, were detained for four hours at Queen and Spadina, and Jesse Freeston, a journalist with the Real News Network, was punched in the face by a police officer. In total, nine journalists reported being either attacked, detained or arrested by police.

9. Name tags were removed to prevent accountability.


Hundreds of police officers violated policy and removed their name tags so as to prevent citizens from identifying them and filing official complaints. Eventually, nearly 100 Toronto police officers were identified on security footage without name tags and faced discipline, which amounted to the loss of a day’s pay.

10. Conditions in the detention centre were inhumane and did not even meet basic United Nations standards.


Despite spending $676 million on security for the G20 summit, police failed to ensure humane facilities for those sent to the former film studio that was converted into a temporary jail. The June 2012 report of the Independent Civilian Review Into Matters Relating to the G20 Summit heavily criticized the police for:

  • not providing those arrested with sufficient information;
  • not processing prisoners in a timely manner;
  • not facilitating adequate access to legal counsel;
  • not providing sufficient water and food:

    Colin O’Connor, one of two National Post newspaper photographers who were arrested during the summit and held in the detention centre overnight, said that “[w]e did not get water for 12 hours.” His colleague, Brett Gundlock, added that “[p]eople were yelling all night, asking for some water.”
  • not providing reliable access to medical care;
  • not following international standards with respect to the use of restraints: 

    People were kept for lengthy periods inside jail cells with their hands zip-tied, which, according to the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, “must not be applied for any longer time than is strictly necessary.” (UN Rules ») According to the report of the civilian review, moreover, “prisoners were detained in pre-booking cells while restrained … in some cases up to 24 hours.” (p. 344)
  • not detaining young persons in accordance with the law;
  • engaging in excessive strip searches;
  • and not ensuring that toilets could be used out of sight of members of the opposite sex

The vast majority of those sent to the prison were not charged or had their charges dropped, strongly indicating that they were unlawfully arrested in the first place.

11. Canadian police ignored the lessons of the 2009 G20 Summit in London.

The United Kingdom hosted a G-20 summit in London in April 2009 and police actions there also became controversial, particularly after a passerby named Ian Tomlinson was attacked by police from behind and pushed to the ground. He died shortly thereafter, and the officer who attacked him was later charged with manslaughter. Despite this, the police forces working on the Toronto G20 did not heed any lessons from the London experience around the proper use of force.

Indeed, the UK Human Rights Joint Committee report of 2009, an independent government review of policing, cautioned that “protestors have the impression that the police are sometimes heavy-handed in their approach to protests, especially in wearing riot equipment in order to deal with peaceful demonstrations.” And another report by Her Majesty’s Chief Inspectorate of Constabulary submitted after the London summit further recommended that police must “[d]emonstrate explicit consideration of the facilitation of peaceful protest throughout the planning process and the execution of the operation,” and that “[t]he starting point for the police is the presumption in favour of facilitating peaceful assembly.” These warnings from the London experience were roundly ignored by police at Toronto’s G20. (See also the CCLA report »)

12. It remains unclear to what extent the police itself encouraged, facilitated and participated in vandalism.

On the first day of the summit, before the protests began, 17 activists were arrested in an early morning police raid on the basis that they were planning to vandalize a number of businesses in the city core. However, information that emerged in the subsequent trials show that two police agents had infiltrated the group as far back as early 2009, and were actively involved in preparing actions around the G20 summit.

According to the Globe & Mail, “[o]ne officer helped develop a list of locations for protesters to congregate at or vandalize,” and then apparently “advocated for the list to be distributed as widely as possible…” This list included businesses such as banks that were in fact targeted by a few protesters during the summit. Meanwhile, the other infiltrating officer “was such a prominent presence in pre-G20 marches that his face was twice featured in newspapers alongside the activists he was spying on.”

Furthermore, questions have been raised about two police cars left on the known protest route and that were later set ablaze. In the words of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association: “The fires posed a risk to the public. Why were they [the cars] allowed to burn for as long as they did? In the normal course of events, we would expect this to be dealt with very quickly.”

All the above raises some critical questions. Did the police infiltrators play a key role in helping plan acts of vandalism? And why did police not stop the vandalism if it had information about where it was going to happen, choosing instead to indiscriminately arrest people peacefully protesting the summit? Only a full public inquiry can answer such questions.

13. Police officers cashed in on the G20 summit.

Thanks to all the overtime they got from the G20, the number of Toronto police officers earning six figures in 2010 increased by 60% in comparison to 2009. In total, 2,159 police personnel earned $100,000 or more in 2010, including the infamous ‘Officer Bubbles’, who threatened to arrest a peaceful protester for blowing bubbles, and then sued YouTube commenters who ridiculed his actions. He took home $108,197.45.

14. No police force has apologized.

None of the police forces involved in the G20—that includes Toronto Police, York Region Police, the OPP, the RCMP, and others—have apologized for any of the abuses police officers committed against members of the public during the summit. In July 2012, the head of Toronto’s police board, Alok Mukherjee, offered a “personal” apology for his role in the debacle, but refused to heed calls from the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition for his resignation.

15. And neither have any elected officials.

Much like the police, elected officials at all three levels of government have refused to apologize for G20 abuses. Quite the contrary, then Toronto mayor David Miller said that the police “acted with professionalism and with respect for the people’s right to lawfully demonstrate,” and then Premier Dalton McGuinty was quick to state that he wanted “to thank our police officers for upholding the rule of law.”

16. No public inquiry has been held.

Despite immediate calls for a public inquiry into police actions during the G20 summit, no comprehensive and open investigation has been launched, and little police accountability has emerged.

17. No police officer has been jailed for abuses committed during the G20.

To date, no officer has been jailed for abuses committed during the summit. One officer, Constable Babak Andalib-Goortani, was found guilty of assaulting Adam Nobody (whose nose and cheekbone were broken) and received a 45-day sentence in 2013, but he was immediately granted bail pending an appeal, which will be heard in the fall of 2014.

Contrast this 45-day sentence for a violent police assault on a human being with the 13.5 month sentence given to Alex Hundert for planning to break some windows. Hundert was arrested early on June 26, well before the day’s protests began, and was in jail while some businesses were vandalized. However, prosecutors claimed that he played a role in planning the vandalism and the judge ruled that this somehow warranted a jail sentence that is nine times longer than the sentence given to Const. Andalib-Goortani for far more serious offences.

18. History will repeat itself: police in Australia are preparing for mass arrests at the 2014 G20 Summit in November.

Police in Australia are preparing for the forthcoming G20 summit in Brisbane in November. But already, it appears that history is repeating. For instance, the state police force has already told its officers that they can remove their name tags, which prevents accountability, as Toronto’s G20 experience clearly showed. Moreover, police there have also decided to turn the state’s Supreme Court into a temporary prisoner processing facility for the duration of the summit, and it’s anyone’s guess if this building, which ostensibly symbolizes justice, will become another human rights debacle like the temporary film studio prison during the Toronto G20.