Opinion

Fame-Hungry Toronto Ignored Ugly Summit History

Vancouver offered lessons the centre of the universe preferred to ignore.

By Bob Mackin 29 Jun 2010 | TheTyee.ca

Bob Mackin reports for 24 Hours Vancouver and was that paper's lead reporter on the Olympics, often publishing on The Tyee as well.

Toronto 2010, have you met Vancouver 1997 and Seattle 1999?

What, never? How could you hold an economic summit without understanding the massive inconvenience, harm to the economy and loss of basic freedoms for your citizens?

Well, Hogtown, you ignored history and look at the mess you're in after G20. Look out Mayor David Miller, the clock is now ticking on your political career!

The months to come will be fraught with trials for mischief and vandalism; many charges will be stayed and many of the innocent will remain so. There will be costly lawsuits and a public inquiry. Those who were quick to applaud the police will eventually realize the "blue bloc" was also a problem, if not the bigger problem, than the "black bloc." It's a predictable script for anyone who lived through the 1997 Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit and its aftermath.

The 1997 Vancouver summit was the turning point on this continent for international leaders' meetings and foreshadowed the Battle in Seattle at the World Trade Organization meeting two years later.

A portion of downtown Vancouver became a militarized, no-go zone. Small businesses cried for compensation. Streets were closed in waves for motorcades. The University of B.C. campus, the summit site, became a place where free speech was criminalized and idealistic students were forcibly arrested by ill-prepared cops.

Retired judge Ted Hughes chastised the RCMP for conduct "inconsistent with the Charter and not appropriate for the circumstances." His 2001 report recommended protesters be given a "generous opportunity" to see and be seen, police be properly trained for public events, and that police "brook no intrusion or interference" from government officials.

In the months to come we will inevitably understand more about the costs of the chaos, the shoddy policing and the role that Ward Elcock played as Prime Minister Stephen Harper's big-event security boss. Evidence suggested then-PM Jean Chretien directed police to quash protests at APEC. Did Harper, through Elcock, meddle in Hogtown?

Finally, Torontonians will look on their calendars and realize their next multi-billion-dollar baby is the 2015 Pan American Games. This hemisphere's mini-Olympics will be double the size of the Vancouver's 2010 Winter Games.

Those lousy Maple Leafs are suddenly no longer Toronto's biggest headache.  [Tyee]

Read more: Rights + Justice

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