Motivated by a plea in Catherine Porter’s report on the current G20 hearings by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and National Union of Public and General Employees, I decided to write to Stephen Harper on the issue of police abuses of power at the G20 summit in Toronto. I encourage anyone who is upset about what happened to do the same. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m sure we have many differences – but one thing we share is a belief in freedom, and the importance of a country where individuals can exercise their creative freedom without undue interference by the state. In fact, although you would probably call me evidence that “satan has his hand in the works of men” because I support the NDP, or rather don’t even support the NDP because they tend far too much to the right, we in fact share beliefs in liberty. I understand you have libertarian tendencies, and these motivated your changes to the census regarding the obligatory long form.
Not to say we are the same kind of libertarians. I don’t know for certain, certainly, but considering your political affiliations I would not be surprised if you think of yourself as an Ayn Rand style libertarian. Like the members of Rush. Do you listen to Rush? You would probably like “2112”, “Farewell to Kings”, and “Hemispheres” – these albums, along with being excellent musical achievements, are philosophical works (penned mostly by the drummer Neil Peart) on the place of the individual within the Mass in modern society. More specifically, they concern the ability of an individual to remain free, on the edge between love and reason, when their right to determine their own path is at risk of being swallowed up by the nanny state.
Myself, on the other hand, identify as an anarcho-socialist or libertarian-communist. That means I emphasize, with John Rawls incidentally, the importance of primary goods allotted to all individuals such that they can pursue their individual projects. This requires strong programs of wealth re-distribution. I think this is required in order to have a society where people are genuinely free – one can not be free if one is so poor one must sell oneself into tyrannical wage-slavery just to make ends meet.
But, while we may have different ideas of how freedom for individuals can best be enabled or promoted within contemporary society, one place we should share both values and practices concern the use of police force without warrant against individuals. For instance, my house was raided by the police during the G20 without a warrant, and people’s bags were illegally searched while I was forced to prove to the police I had a right to be in my own home and invite guests into that home. Although our manners of owning property are different – I own my property collectively as part of a housing cooperative – I’m sure you agree that people have a right to the quiet enjoyment of their property, and protection against warrentless searches.
There are many more instances of police use of force and breach of protocol that bother me. The use of the “breech of peace” charge to detain large numbers of individuals who were not charged suggests our police force is willing to use mass arrest as a means of politically motivated crowd control, rather than as a means of putting criminals in prison. The many reported instances of police abuse of detainees, including sexual abuse, are not acceptable and do not appear to be simply the effects of a few “bad apples”. It appears rather that the police were given free reign, and that the violent tendencies already present in a portion of the police officers were used to intimidate protestors – especially nonviolent ones. Many videos demonstrate that much greater violence was used against non-violent protestors than was used against people actually engaged in vandalism – this is not acceptable to me, and neither should it be to you.
It may be true that the large majority of those who gathered on the Saturday to protest the positions you took up in discussions with other G20 leaders did not vote for you, and will not vote for you. Regardless, as a person who values freedom and liberty, you have a duty to allow individuals to express themselves freely without undue intimidation or force being used against them.