After a Decade, a Settlement is Finally Reached with G20 Protestors

The year was 2010. Things started rough with a massive earthquake in Haiti, President Barack Obama got the Affordable Care Act passed but it came at the cost of one of the biggest midterm sweeps in American history, and Spain won that year’s FIFA World Cup. Meanwhile, in Toronto, whatever goals there were for the G20 Summit were overshadowed by violence in the streets and the overreaction by Toronto Police that’s now been backed up with a court settlement.

According to the CBC, a $16.5-million settlement has been reached between the Toronto Police Service, and the people behind a class-action lawsuit representing 1,100 people arrested during the G20 summit in downtown Toronto in 2010. The people arrested by the Toronto Police, many just for being in the area when the police cordoned it off, will be eligible to receive between $5,000 and $24,700 depending on their experiences.

“When these events happened many Canadians could not believe they happened in Canada. The settlement appears to fairly recognize through financial compensation, acknowledgements and reforms that they shouldn’t have happened and will never happen again,” said attorney Eric Gillespie in a statement. Gillespie was one of the lawyers representing those arrested during the G20. 

The lawsuit was launched in August 2010, and alleged that the Toronto Police were indiscriminate in how they approached enforcing the peace during the G20 meeting. Protests took place all over downtown Toronto, organized by many groups trying to raise awareness about climate change, poverty, and globalization, while there were groups that attended the protest with the intention of looting and other unlawful behaviour. The peaceful protestors were often lumped in with the actual criminals, and so were people just tying to traverse the area.

Hundreds of people were arrested and held in detention for hours without charge, and in conditions that many have described as “deplorable.” A report by the Ontario Ombudsman shortly after the G20 called the situation that June as nothing less than “the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history.”

“The terrifying way in which I and 400 others were suddenly and arbitrarily surrounded and held by riot police on a street corner for four hours in a freezing downpour changed forever the way I look at police, continues to give me chills,” said Sherry Good, the originator of the lawsuit. ” I believe that this Settlement Agreement does bring about some justice, and I hope, and I think, that our freedom of expression rights will now be better respected for a long time to come.”

“For me and hundreds of others, being suddenly surrounded and held captive by frightening numbers of riot police when we had done nothing at all, going through violent and unlawful arrests, and then being thrown into a nightmare detention centre, was a stunning and horrifying experience,” added Thomas Taylor, a class representative of the lawsuit. “I had never imagined that such a thing could happen in Canada, but that experience showed me how very fragile civil liberties are for so many of us.  I truly hope that this Settlement Agreement will help make sure that such a thing never happens again.”

The agreement still has to be reviewed by a Superior Court Judge before going into effect, and a Settlement Agreement hearing is schedule before Justice Edward Belobaba on October 19, 2020. Gillespie is encouraging anyone that was arrested during the G20 protest to get in touch with his firm to see if they’re eligible for compensation.

Any Guelphites eligible for compensation? Activists from the Royal City have been a pretty big part of the G20 story, and a Globe & Mail report in 2011 recounted how members of the the anti-terrorism section of the Ontario Provincial Police’s intelligence bureau infiltrated several Guelph-based groups, whose members accused the undercover officer of pushing them to take more direct action even when they were hesitant.

“What occurred over the course of the weekend resulted in the largest mass arrests in Canadian history. These disturbances had a profound impact not only on the citizens of Toronto and Canada generally, but on public confidence in the police as well,” wrote Gerry McNeilly, head of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), in a 300-page review released in 2012. “It is fortunate that, in all the confusion, there were no deaths.”

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