Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
House of Commons
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
Dear Prime Minister,
The organizations signatory to this letter have come together to request that a judicial inquiry be established under the Inquiries Act with respect to the conduct of police and security forces at Montebello on August 20, 2007.
Efforts by the police to disrupt the peaceful protest taking place on that day and subsequent responses to questions from both the police and politicians responsible for their oversight raise very serious concerns which go to the heart of free speech and the rights of Canadians to question government policy. It is imperative that police respect Canada’s constitutional values and work to protect, not undermine, public freedoms and safety. Police conduct at Montebello demonstrated no such commitment.
The fact that our police and other authorities now openly admit that three masked men, at least one of whom was carrying a rock, were indeed police officers is disturbing on its own account. The dismissal of police actions in infiltrating a peaceful demonstration as “routine” is unnerving to all Canadians.
Minister Day of your government has suggested that the review processes of the Sûreté du Québec and the RCMP be invoked. We have considered the Minister’s advice but have decided to pursue this request under the Inquiries Act in order to have as transparent and complete an inquiry as possible.
It is our view that a Commissioner appointed under the Inquiries Act would operate independently of the police and, in fact, would be more efficient and practical since more than one police and security service was involved at the Montebello meeting.
In addition, we think such an inquiry, while focused on specific events at Montebello, needs a much broader scope than would be possible under the police complaint process. What happened on August 20 was not just a police operation and important questions need to be examined and answered:
1) Who was responsible for planning and coordination of events at Montebello and to what extent were the offices of the Prime Minister of Canada, the Premier of Quebec, and their respective departments of public safety, involved in security planning and coordination for the Montebello meeting?
2) In particular, to what extent was the PMO and/or Public Safety Canada involved in the direction of undercover policing operations at Montebello? Was the RCMP aware that Sûreté du Québec officers would be present in disguise and take part in the protest including in the manner depicted on the video taken at the event and subsequently posted to the You Tube site? Were these plans approved in advance of the protest and by whom?
3) Did the Sûreté du Québec and/or the RCMP have any communication concerning security and policing operations for the Montebello meeting, either directly or indirectly, with the offices of the Prime Minister of Canada or the Premier of Quebec?
4) Who was responsible for coordinating with those responsible in the United States and Mexico for the security arrangements for their respective Presidents?
5) What steps has the government taken to investigate the allegations and evidence that indicates that police were involved in inciting others in the crowd to violence, including the allegation that can be heard on the video?
6) In addition to the RCMP and Sûreté du Québec, were any other police or security forces involved in undercover police work at Montebello?
The fundamental issue at stake is Canadians’ right to speak, to disagree, and to protest government policies without the chilling effect of masked, armed and aggressive police officers in their midst. Such actions are a discredit to Canadians as a whole. The public needs assurance that those responsible for the actions in Montebello will be held accountable and that their rights will not be so infringed upon in the future.
DAVE COLES, President
Communications, Energy and Paperworkers
Union of Canada
Paul Moist, President
Canadian Union of Public Employees
John Gordon, President
Public Service Alliance of Canada