Being held for hours without water, verbal abuse, arbitrary search and seizures are not unusual in Canada. Homeless, first nations, people of colour, those caught in the cycle of economic crimes for survival experience on a regular basis what those arrested over the period of the G8/G20 lead-up and meetings went through. Crime is crime and speaking for economic justice in an unacceptable way will be treated in the same way as making an illegal income is. When there is a general societal call for stronger penalties for criminals, it is almost inevitable that the same penalties will be used against those involved in creative, passionate, public and/or forceful dissent.
The linkage between the way economic crime and political dissent is clearly being demonstrated in the courts around the G20. From not letting media and observers into courtrooms to impositions of bail conditions that restrict freedom of movement and assembly to conspiracy charges being laid against organisers, our courts our reminding us that to many in positions of authority drug dealing and organising a militant protest are similar actions.
This is nothing new. As an example, neighbourhood groups that gave victim impact statements to support bail conditions banning individuals from neighbourhoods have helped create an atmosphere where such restrictions are imposed in bail conditions when protesters are released. Despite case law going back to Regina vs. Collins that clearly state that such conditions can be an unfair restriction on civil rights, such conditions are often imposed on people charged with offences at demonstrations. The way that society deals with anyone it marginalises will become the way it treats those that speak out.
One positive thing that could arise from the events of recent times would be a realisation on the part of the activists going through the system is that there has to be a better way of addressing the whole spectrum of crime. It would be great if there was a renewal of the restorative and transformative justice movements with the influx of hundreds of new activists. Better treatment of political criminals will only truly occur with better treatment of all criminals. The same legal decisions will be called up to decide if there is an unreasonable search and seizure for a drug dealer and a political activist.