Three people — including Halifax Chebucto NDP MLA Howard Epstein — have filed formal complaints against the local Mounties for their handling of crowd control during the G-7 finance ministers’ meeting in Halifax last month.
Epstein said he filed his complaint by fax June 17 — two days after RCMP in riot gear used tear gas on protesters who moved barriers set up outside the World Trade and Convention Centre, where the ministers were meeting.
“My chief concern is that, in using tear gas, the police overreacted,” he said.
“I see it, unfortunately, as a deliberate strategy on the part of the police, partly to intimidate protesters and partly to interfere with legitimate political dissent.”
RCMP Sgt. Wayne Noonan said yesterday that the complaints are being reviewed by the public complaints co-ordinator in the internal investigation section at the Halifax RCMP headquarters.
“He will get back to the complainants within 45 days, and then every 30 days thereafter until it’s completed,” Noonan said.
There is no time limit on how long that process takes.
“Once it’s been concluded here, the results of the investigator’s findings are discussed with the complainant,”Noonan said.
“They may or may not agree with our findings, and they have the recourse of going to the commission for public complaints against the RCMP, which is an organization completely removed from the force, independent of the RCMP.
“They can review our investigator’s findings, ask additional questions, and can make recommendations to the commissioner.”
Epstein said the RCMP “should have learned from the APEC inquiry that there has to be high respect for the legitimate right of citizens to express their political opinions. That was completely absent from this demonstration.”
In 1997, RCMP officers pepper sprayed and arrested protesters at an APEC conference in Vancouver. An inquiry by retired judge Ted Hughes found the Mounties acted inappropriately.
Epstein said normal policing in Halifax would have “worked just fine,” as it did in Calgary a week later during the meeting of G-8 world leaders in Kananaskis, Alberta.
“What I want is that the RCMP officers responsible not be allowed to get away with it. They clearly didn’t learn the lesson the last time, and they have to be called on it,” he said.
“They gave no warning that they were going to use tear gas — none. It was just way out of line. The mood of the crowd was just overwhelmingly noisy, but peaceful.”
The demonstration resulted in 31 arrests, but only three people have been charged.
Epstein said he received a letter last week from the complaints officer that advised him his complaint has been forwarded to the RCMP commissioner and asked for his comments.
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