Mr. Speaker, on February 28 of this year I raised a question with the Prime Minister concerning the upcoming summit of the Americas in Quebec City. At that time I expressed concern to the Prime Minister about the efforts in Quebec City to effectively turn the city into an armed militarized fortress during the summit. At the same time I asked the minister about the contempt for democracy involved in failing to make public the text of the agreement that was being negotiated.
In the few minutes I have available to me this afternoon, I will follow up and voice my very serious concerns about what did take place in what I consider to be a very serious abuse of police powers in Quebec City.
Thomas Berger, a respected former judge, an outstanding civil libertarian and lawyer, wrote a book called Fragile Freedoms . What I think is abundantly clear is that our constitutional freedoms, the freedom of speech, the freedom of association, the freedom to peaceful and non-violent dissent, came under assault in Quebec City.
I am not in any way condoning the violent actions of a very small number of protesters who hurled paving stones and other objects at police officers. Certainly I condemn those actions unreservedly, as well as the actions of a small number of protesters who attacked and beat a police officer. That was reprehensible and unacceptable.
There were over 50,000 protesters who marched in a peaceful demonstration on Saturday, but there were also many others who peacefully and non-violently, close to the four kilometre wall of shame in Quebec City, chose to demonstrate against the profoundly undemocratic nature of the FTAA negotiations that were taking place inside the wall.
I personally witnessed attacks by the police on peaceful demonstrators, the excessive use of tear gas and the use of plastic bullets, which was absolutely reprehensible and unacceptable. Indeed independent observers, including la ligue des droits et libertés and the five observers appointed by the Quebec government, came to the conclusion that the use of plastic bullets was totally unacceptable and that there had been abusive and excessive use of tear gas on Saturday.
My colleagues and I are calling for an independent inquiry into this gross misconduct by the police force, by the Sûreté du Québec, by the RCMP and by two other police forces involved. This is not democracy. This is the antithesis of democracy.
I point out that one of the demonstrators, Éric Laferrière, had to undergo an emergency tracheotomy because he was hit in the throat by a plastic bullet. As the Speaker knows, I was struck by a plastic bullet as well. In a democracy this is an outrage.
I will as well draw to the attention of the House the appalling treatment of Jaggi Singh. Jaggi Singh was a demonstrator who was arrested in Quebec City and who remains the only demonstrator not to have been freed on bail. His offence was supposedly using a weapon, a 25 foot catapult that hurled teddy bears. In fact this was no threat to anyone.
I have to ask: Why is Jaggi Singh the only protester who was arrested during the protest who remains in jail? Why does the crown believe that he who was not convicted of any violent offence is dangerous enough to be kept in prison? This is an outrage. I would hope that the government would recognize that there must be an independent inquiry into the appalling conditions that people were held in Orsainville prison, as well as the very serious abuses by the police in firing tear gas and plastic bullets at peaceful, non-violent demonstrators.