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CIRPA protests police harassment of peace activists

Lee Gold — May 1984

Direct action is a term used by peace activists to describe non-violent activities ranging from street theatre to illegal demonstrations. Ironically, the group which claimed responsibility for the bombing of the Litton Systems plant outside Toronto in October 1982 called itself ‘Direct Action.’ Toronto police used this fact to justify raids on private homes and peace organisations, and wiretaps of fifteen prominent non-violent peace activists.

No criminal charges have been laid against any of these individual activists. However, fifteen months later their belongings have not been returned, and they have been given no assurance that the tapes of the wiretaps have been destroyed.

Representatives of the Citizens’ Independent Review of Police Activities (CIRPA) have accompanied two of these peace activists to two hearings before the Metropolitan Toronto Police Commission. They requested the immediate return of the private property seized in the raids, assurances that the wiretaps had been destroyed, and a public apology. They asked the commissioners to investigate what appeared to be a deliberate policy to discredit and harass the peace movement, and sought guarantees that “a mass targeting of a community group by police would not happen again.”

At a first meeting in March of this year, several commissioners threatened to walk out if CIRPA attempted to discuss the wiretaps. At the second meeting, in April, they stated that they had no authority to investigate any activities of the police. In response to this position, CIRPA board member Peter Rosenthal (who was also wiretapped) asked the Commission “If the Police Commission doesn’t control the police, who does?”

Chairman of the Commission Philip Givens stated that “even if all of Toronto was wiretapped the Commission could not interfere or question the action. They could only make decisions about uniforms and such.”

CIRPA wants the Commission to investigate allegations of police impropriety against peace activists so that similar invasions of privacy for not cause do not reoccur. They want guidelines established for future investigations and an apology in order to clear people’s names. CIRPA is considering asking the Supreme Court of Ontario to order the Commission to exercise its authority under the Police Act. CIRPA will also renew its push for a publicly-elected Board of Commissioners which will place the police of Metropolitan Toronto under civilian control.

CIRPA can be reached by telephone at 416/xxx-xxxx.