English Opinion

SUPREME COURT OF CANADA ORDERED PSB,
LOOKING BACK…COVERAGE OF G8 – G 20 IN TORONTO 2010

Given the history of violence that accompanies these summits, most locals, i.e., Torontonians living in the downtown core opted to leave the city or stay in their domiciles.  I preferred to be in the thick of things when such a magnitude of an event is taking place in my neck of the woods.  With my Manila Times ID, I trekked to the (CNE) Canadian National Exhibition grounds, where the journalists were getting accredited with the mindset that if people from far away places like China, India and South Africa are able to travel here to cover the events, why not me who lives right in the heart of Toronto. When I arrived at the CNE, I presented myself as a foreign correspondent for The Manila Times.  I encountered some resistance at first but after explaining in the interview that I had been to the White House and Parliament Hill, Asia Pacific Conference (APEC) to cover big events involving world leaders and that I was a governor council appointee, I was cleared by the CSIS and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

On my first day, at the building, I wanted to see the controversial man-made lake which was quoted, that cost $2 million out of the pocket of taxpayers like me.  What I saw was a big screen showing Muskoka Lake and its vicinity, a fantastic overview starting from sunrise to sunset, two inches of water with two rows of canoes on both sides of the dockyard, sights and sounds of special effects and the props of so-called Muskoka chair.  One does not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out the cost of all these.  The story was over-blown.  I sat down and relax and wade my feet on the water.  And I felt proud that the theme was nature at its best.  The content of the experience is so Canadian and I felt proud of my adoptive country.  If Disney has its playground in Anaheim and Orlando south of us, we Canadians have nature around us and I experienced all these sitting on a special chair which gave me the feeling that I was riding a mountain bike, horseback-riding, white water rafting, skiing, skeedoing, travelling in an airplane – all these with the background of sounds of water, snow, and whatever else that accompanies the experience.  Price:  $57,000.  Experience:  priceless.  These were all for the benefit of the foreign delegates and journalists who came to cover the two summits.

The media centre at the Direct Energy Building is comprised of 4 big theatres allocated for conferences.  Inside are about a dozen widescreen movie presentations from what is happening around and the World Soccer being held in South Africa.
Six dozens of computers with flatscreens are provided for everyone’s use.  Media kits full of freebies like the famous Ontario maple syrup, cannister for drinking water, etc. were distributed.  And, being a first-world country, Canada offered free meals, buffet style eat and drink booze all you can.  Journalists I met during the day asked me what newspaper I carry and I always replied proudly, “The Manila Times”. We have intelligent conversations. I felt proud, secure, and actually, comfortable being in that building than anywhere in Toronto because mayhem was already occurring in the streets of Toronto.

 

The G-20 was formed in 1999 to include the original G-8 member countries, the European Union, and 11 other countries for the primary purpose of forging international economic co-operation on issues that shape world economy. Maybe they will not be successful 100% but the fact that world leaders are talking, exchanging views, presenting solutions to solve world problems – these are what the world needs to survive.The venue of the G-20 summit is the Metro Convention Centre in Toronto, beside lake Ontario.  This has been fenced and except for people residing in the area, no one is allowed in. This is were I consider myself lucky to be on front row to witness president Obama of the US, give a speech.

 

Given the history of violence which accompanies G-8 and G-20 summits, Toronto braced itself for the worst and fielded thousands of law-enforcement officers in the streets, mainly to protect the venue. Friday’s protests involved minor scuffles.  Saturday’s was a day of clashes between the police and protestors.  The protest started peacefully with members of labor unions marching to the site of the summit.  A hundred or so of Black Bloc members, known as “Anarchists”, who dress in black outfits from head to toe, covering their faces with black material, marred the march by breaking windows of business establishments. It was a day of violence and vandalism and Toronto became a place of anarchy.

 

The biggest shopping mall in Canada was on lockdown.  So were hospitals and banks. I had a couple of minor brushes with police officers because I took my car to the CNE.  A Filipino-Canadian officer stopped me from entering the restricted zone.  When Officer Philip Mendoza saw my credentials, he let me through.   Second was when I left my mustang to attend an event.  When I came back, police officers asked me if it was my car.  I said yes.  Then I was asked to start it, which I could not do it right away, because it is an old car which doesn’t start right promptly. The police officer attempted to take cover, suspecting that the car might blow up and that I might be a suicide bomber.  When it finally started, the officer gave me the clearance but not before looking at my credentials as a journalist.

Toronto at that time is not the Toronto a tourist sees.  The heavy police presence, in riot gear, is not the Toronto I know.  But then again, the protestors who inflicted damage to this beautiful city where I have lived all my Canadian life are not the people from this city either.  But because Canada is a first world country, a member of the G-8 and the G-20, she has no choice but act as a host to these summits.  The U.S. leader arrived in Canada armed with a proposal to address this goal by proposing continued stimulus measures but in the end, President Obama acquiesced to the majority’s decision to address their country’s deficit first before anything else.  U.S. and U.K. disagreed on how to achieve the goal of the summit.  U.S. was for the introduction of a stimulus package which will encourage economic growth and give jobs.

 

At that time, 900 arrests have been made by Toronto Police.  About 70 youths were picked up from the University of Toronto campus. Police cruisers were burned and the police contend that the violence and mayhem was a strategy to distract them from their primary assignment which was to secure the meeting place.  Some of the protestors broke away from the march and went from intersection to another in an effort to reach the security fence but they were always thwarted by the police everywhere they went. There was an instance, lucky for me by chance missed an incident when police corral several demonstrators with other bystander under rain fall. In extreme cases, the police were forced to used pepper spray, tear gas and bean bag pellets.  Nowhere in time during the height of the violence was the fence breached.  Torontonians are still reeling from the rampage that went on.  The police were sued by those people who suffer under police operation. I think G-8 and G-20 leaders should deliberate on whether it is feasible to have future summits in one permanent place like the United Nations, for example.  Hosting these summits has proven to be very costly for Toronto and the previous venue. Ten years later as of this writings the Supreme Court of Canada order the Police Service to pay people who suffered, during those police operation. The payment is $5000.-$25000. for each case.

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