Volume 91, Issue 49

Tuesday, November 25, 1997



Stripped of justice

The past month has seen many protests, though the consequential events arising from the latest one held in Guelph last week against Bill 160 were particularly strange. Strange because even though many across Ontario have expressed their displeasure over the bill, here seven women were singled out and treated in a manner which is highly questionable. And they were treated this way by police.

The first question is why were seven out of the over 1,000 people who attended and participated in the protest targeted, arrested for a breach of peace and treated in such a cruel manner? Surely they were not the only ones raising their voices.

Secondly, why were they detained for four hours and then brought to a maximum security facility? After four hours, the protest should have subsided and therefore, the perpetrators no longer posed a threat to the situation at hand – which is why police claimed they were removed in the first place.

Perhaps the most questionable aspect of the event is the police action in taking these women, handcuffed, to a maximum security facility for men were they were treated like nothing less than convicts – after only being arrested for something which does not require a court date, a fine or even a mark on one's criminal record.

This action was totally uncalled for and the seven young women were victims. Being subjected to having mug shots taken and being strip searched where they had to bend over backwards to prove they weren't concealing any contraband and where they were also detained for hours as an "intimidation" tactic is even more victimizing. Not only were these women stripped of their clothes, they were stripped of their dignity.

Since when is someone participating in a protest over education suddenly suspected for concealment of contraband? Since when is it considered "procedure" to have people who were arrested on a minor infraction, shipped off to a maximum security facility where they are ordered to remain silent for fear of starting a riot among male prisoners and then stripped searched? Since when is it not an option for police to provide a safe escort home to young women after they are subjected to nine hours of what surely was a traumatic experience?

What transpired from the demonstration of protesters at Guelph was a demonstration of pure injustice on the part of the police – those who are meant to preserve and uphold standards of justice.

Sadly, these women must now take further legal action to hopefully regain some sense of dignity and reassurance that indeed, what they were subjected to was wrong.

To Contact The Editorial Department: gazed@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright The Gazette 1997