Toronto media tour G20 detention facility

It is has been nearly a month since the G20 rocked Toronto, but the events have not been forgotten.

Accusations of detainee mistreatment, police brutality and civil rights violations have been circulating since the summit weekend and continue to arise.

Not many would disagree that the individuals who caused riots and destruction of property over the weekend of June 25 – 26 should face the consequences of their actions.

It is when innocent bystanders and protesters are arrested, and then housed in a crowded holding cell in amongst guilty parties, that questions begin to be asked.

The detention centre centre that housed detainees arrested for G20 related incidents was opened to the media on June 29 to give some insight into how the facility was run.

The media was admitted to the temporary detention centre, located on 629 Eastern Avenue, and lead on a tour by Staff Sergeant J McGuire.

Tim Shore, publisher of blogTO, was one of the individuals who was given a tour of the remnants of the makeshift holding cell.

Shore said he entered the facility without any preconceived notions of what he would find when he entered.

As media toured the centre the first thing they were told was that the state of the facility now is only a glimpse into the way the centre was when it was brimming with prisoners.

“It was completely empty and we knew that we weren’t going to be seeing the detention centre in the same condition it was when people where there,” Shore said.

“We just saw the shell and whatever remnants there were.”

Shore said that the centre was not a particularly comfortable setting, but believed from what he saw the conditions were acceptable.

“It’s a holding cell, its not a luxurious arrangement,” Shore said, “(but) they seemed reasonable enough for what we’d expect in Canada and not like anything we’ve seen in videos of third-world type holding cells.”

The media guide, according to Shore, was thorough when answering the questions of the guests.

According to him, and confirmed through the photos on Shore’s blog, there was food, water, telephones, and restroom facilities available to detainees.

When the question was raised as to whether or not the prisoners had timely, or any, access to these amenities the issue of logistics was cited.

“I believe there was food and water available,” Shore said.

“(But the guide said) it’s quite possible that people didn’t get food or water when they asked for it but it was more of a logistics issue in terms of people not being given food or water at all, or when they were asked, versus it not being available.”

Shore’s photos show cases of water, apple cores and and half-eaten cheese sandwiches littering the facility floor, confirming the presence of food and water in the facility.

He also agreed with police when they said that the sheer number of prisoners and the chaos of the weekend made it difficult to respond to all of the detainees needs quickly or, in some cases, at all.

“Certain people got more speedy, if any, access to phones to call whoever they wanted to call,” he said, “but some people didn’t get that and that’s what were hearing about.”

In regards to accounts of male officers strip searching female officers, the media guide said that their policy is not to have that happen.

He said that to his knowledge there was no wavering from that policy but that its possible that there could have been violations.

“(S. Sgt.  McGuire) wasn’t going to say 100 per cent that it didn’t happen,” Shore said, “but he said that if people have an accusation there are channels for them to take the complaint and launch a review.”

From what he observed,  Shore said the required amenities were available to those detained but the main problem appeared to be making them available in a timely manner.

“There would have been a lot of noise, commotion and chaos,” Shore said. “People may have been sick or having to go to the bathrooms and there would have been a lot of questions and shouting that would have taken place during the operations.”

The issue that then arises is not whether the prisoners had food, water, and access to telephones and restrooms, but rather why their requests may have gone unanswered.

Perhaps the pending independent review set to be conducted by the Toronto Police Services Board will shed some light on these questions.

To date neither the provincial or federal governments have agreed to an official inquiry regarding police conduct and detentions during the G20 weekend.