SQ admit to infiltrating SPP demo

Posted by admin on Aug 26th, 2007

Probe required into police tactics

EDITORIAL Toronto Star Aug 25, 2007 04:30 AM

When Prime Minister Stephen Harper was asked Monday whether he was concerned about protesters outside a summit of North American leaders in Montebello, Que., he replied with a smile: “I’ve heard it’s nothing. A couple hundred? It’s sad.” Harper was right about the protest being “sad,” not because of its size, but due to the international controversy that has arisen after it was revealed that undercover Quebec provincial police officers had posed as protesters during the demonstration. Quebec police officials have admitted the officers were involved in the protest. The question now is whether they tried to provoke protesters to commit violence.

The protesters say yes, pointing to a posting on video-sharing website YouTube that shows three men, their faces concealed by bandanas and one holding a rock, being confronted by activists before apparently being handcuffed and arrested by police.

But the Sûreté du Québec denies allegations its officers were trying to incite the activists. Instead, it says the officers mingled with protesters to ferret out those bent on violence. It also says their cover was blown after they refused to throw rocks.

Whatever the case, the incident has sparked legitimate concerns that cannot be casually shrugged off, as Public Security Minister Stockwell Day tried to do this week by suggesting unhappy protesters could lodge a complaint with the Quebec force.

It may well be legitimate for police to go undercover to keep an eye on large demonstrations. But allegations that police may have tried to infiltrate a peaceful protest to provoke a violent confrontation merit a prompt independent investigation, preferably by a judge.

Despite the Quebec force’s firm denials, the YouTube video raises legitimate questions about how its officers conducted themselves.

If their aim really was to thwart violence, why did the three officers don bandanas and camouflage pants typical of hard-core anarchists to infiltrate a bunch of mostly middle-aged union and social activists?

Why did one of the officers have a rock in his hand in the first place?

Who in the Quebec force approved these tactics? And what did the Mounties, which along with the Quebec provincial force policed the summit between Harper, U.S. President George Bush and Mexican President Felipe Calderón, know about the strategy?

Canadians deserve answers to these questions without delay.

The Quebec force said yesterday a protester handed one of the officers a rock, but he had no intention of using it. It also said it is launching an internal review of its procedures. That does not go far enough.

The right to protest peacefully is a cornerstone of our democratic society. Allegations that Quebec police may have overstepped their authority in order to short-circuit a legal demonstration should be given the full public scrutiny that only an independent probe can provide.

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