Canadian Civil Liberties group backs Bill 160 protestors
By Mark Brown
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is asking questions about the treatment of seven female protestors by police and they want answers.
After being arrested for breaching the peace at a protest in Guelph in November over Education Reform Bill 160 as Education Minister Dave Johnson visited the city, the seven females were handcuffed and taken to the Wellington Detention Centre. There, they had mug shots taken, were strip-searched, dressed in prison clothing and were held for over five hours.
The CCLA approached the Guelph Police Services Board last week and requested an independent review and assessment of the treatment of the seven women, said Alan Borovoy, spokesperson for the CCLA.
"It does not have to be a formal inquiry," Borovoy said. He added the CCLA would like to see a review done by individuals who are independent from the police and the protestors involved, in order to maintain impartiality.
The police board requested a report on the incident from the chief of police. The report will be presented to the board March 12. Kendra Pagnan, executive assistant to the chief of police for the Guelph Police Department, said no formal investigation into this incident has been launched since there has been no official complaint from the protestors.
Some of the questions the CCLA would like clarified on behalf of the women include the reason for the length of their detention, why they were treated the way they were while detained, what the intentions of the police were and whether it was necessary to transfer the protestors from the Guelph police station to the Wellington Detention Centre.
Sarah Vance, one of the seven protestors, said no official complaint to the police has been launched by her or the other six women involved. She explained this is because the women do not see this as being the most effective course of action as they feel the police will not act impartially.
"We are skeptical about their process since the police chief adjudicates the complaint," she said. The seven women and the CCLA are concerned because those who will hear the complaint have a vested interested in the reputation of the police, she added.
Vance said being aligned with the CCLA gives the protestors a better chance of accomplishing their goal, although they are still considering launching an official complaint with the police themselves.
"I'm definitely looking for an apology but it doesn't mean a lot if it comes without some type of action," she said. Vance said she would like the Guelph police to stop their excessive action towards protestors.