Madam Speaker, last summer in Toronto at the G20 summit, Canadians were shocked to see the largest mass arrests in our nation's history. They were deeply disturbed by the multiple and repeat violations of our most cherished democratic and constitutional rights. Eleven hundred Canadians were arrested without charges being laid or had their charges subsequently dropped.
New Democrats immediately went to work to get answers for the questions Canadians were asking: How could this happen in a country like Canada? Who is responsible? How do we ensure this could never happen again?
New Democrats were successful in getting the public safety committee to launch a parliamentary inquiry into the many issues surrounding security at the G8 and G20 summits. New Democrats helped secure five days of hearings, comprised of ten hours of testimony from twenty-three individuals, and these hearings revealed some very startling new information.
It was thanks to these hearings that we learned from Toronto Police chief, Bill Blair, that 90 Toronto police officers had covered or removed their name badges while policing the G20 summit, in direct violation of a policy set personally by Chief Blair.
We heard shocking testimony from TV Ontario news anchor, Steve Paikin, about the mistreatment of journalists who were covering protests at the summit. Journalists assembled in a public place on the streets of Toronto were told they had to leave or they would be arrested. One journalist was the victim of unprovoked police brutality when he had the audacity to assert his right to freely assemble in public and cover public events.
The committee heard graphic testimony about the conditions in detention from four students who were arrested at the University of Toronto gymnasium. We heard about the abusive, sexist, derogatory and violent taunts aimed at individuals in detention, language so shocking that I am not permitted to repeat it in the House but anyone can view the committee transcripts and see what I mean.
We heard that individuals were kept 20 people to a cage, were not given sufficient amounts of food or water, were denied access to medicine and were forced to toilet themselves in porta-potties with no doors in front of police and fellow detainees of both genders.
The committee was presented with conclusive evidence that the right to peacefully assemble in public, the right to be informed of the charges against oneself upon arrest, the right to contact a lawyer and the rights of free press and free speech were all systematically violated during the G20 summit in Toronto.
The work of New Democrats in securing these hearings was crucial in obtaining this information and getting it on the public record. However, parliamentary committee hearings are not sufficient to get the necessary answers to the very serious questions that remain.
The committee hearings are limited to five and seven minute rounds of questions, which is not sufficient time to properly question a witness. Parliamentary committees do not hear evidence given under sworn oath in general. Parliamentary committees have limited power to subpoena documents and witnesses. The committee hearings are marked by partisanship when a more judicious approach is needed to get at the truth.
Despite the hours of hearings and the pages of testimony, key questions remain unanswered. Who is responsible for the mass rights violations? Who made the decisions on the ground that led to them?
Ultimately, Canadians want the government, their government, to be accountable for the events that took place on its watch. It was the Conservative government's summit and it spent $1 billion of taxpayer money running it. The Conservative government planned and executed the security.
The government owes the Canadian people some answers and only a full judicial inquiry will get those answers. Will the government launch a public inquiry into the rights violations that occurred at the G20 summit in Toronto?