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10/15/2013

Take Back The Streets: Report

Rsz_quebec_protestsProtesters opposing Quebec student tuition fee hikes demonstrate in Montreal May 20, 2012. GRAHAM HUGES / CANADIAN PRESS

Reports detailing the brutal suppression of street protests in Egypt, South Africa or Kenya does not come as a surprise. A national holiday in Egypt to mark the 40-year anniversary of the country's war with Israel ended last week with the deaths of 28 demonstrators.

In South Africa, mounting unrest over unemployment and lack of basic services have led to protests and violent confrontations with security services, including one where 34 striking mineworkers were gunned down by police.

There are daily reports about police and military brutality in the face of continuing protests that began in 2011 with the "Arab Spring" uprisings.

But a report released last week by the International Network of Civil Liberties Organizations (which includes the Canadian Civil Liberties Association) not only highlights these abuses, but the increasing criminalization of dissent at home too.

The report's title comes from Toronto's G20 summit protests in June 2010 when a Deputy Police Chief Tony Warr issued an order to "take back the streets." Over the next two days more than 1,000 peaceful protesters were rounded up and detained.

"It is emblematic of a very concerning pattern of government conduct: the tendency to transform individuals exercising a fundamental democratic right – the right to protest – into a perceived threat that requires a forceful government response," notes an American Civil Liberties Union blog about Warr's G20 order.

The Canadian case detailed in the report focuses on the widespread street protests in Quebec over high tuition and Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who became the face of the 2012 demonstrations that were dubbed "the Maple Spring."

The conclusion is worrying: "The student protests in Quebec were unusual for Canada in terms of their size, strength, and sustained nature," reads the report. "The governmental response – the enactment of a law that significantly curbed peaceful assembly and expressive activities – was highly troubling. The police response also gave cause for significant concerns and raised questions about the adequacy of oversight and accountability mechanisms in the province."

The full report can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/sites/default/files/assets/global_protest_suppression_report_inclo.pdf

 

Michelle Shephard is the Star's National Security correspondent and author of "Decade of Fear: Reporting from Terrorism's Grey Zone." She is a three-time recipient of Canada's National Newspaper Award. Follow her on Twitter @shephardm

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