Poll finds Canadians support police's G20 response
Riot police push against a crowd during a street demonstration on the closing day of the G20 Summit in Toronto, Sunday, June 27, 2010. (AP / Carolyn Kaster)
OTTAWA - A new poll suggests most Canadians believe the police response to the G20 protests was appropriate.
The results came Monday as MPs debated -- but didn't vote on -- a motion to hold hearings on policing of the Toronto summit.
Hundreds of people were arrested at the meeting of world leaders last month amid damage to shops and cars in the city's downtown.
Some protesters complained of police violence, threats and mistreatment in custody.
A Harris-Decima survey for The Canadian Press says two-thirds of people polled felt the police response was appropriate, while about one in five said it was inappropriate.
And two-thirds of those surveyed doubted a future G8 or G20 meeting could be held in Canada without violence and property damage.
The telephone survey of just over 1,000 Canadians was conducted June 30 to July 4 and is considered accurate to within plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Despite the raucous Toronto protests -- attributed to a relatively small group of hardcore activists -- just over half of people surveyed were in favour of Canada hosting such meetings in future.
That was down from the pre-summit level of 68 per cent.
"Before the June G8 and G20 meetings, Canadians generally felt these summits serve a valuable symbolic, if not necessarily productive purpose," said Doug Anderson, senior vice-president of Harris-Decima.
"Although they were seen as expensive, most felt hosting summits to be worth the cost. In the wake of this summer's meetings, we find some of that enthusiasm has eroded."
The House of Commons public safety committee held a rare summer meeting Monday to debate an opposition motion to look into summit security.
But Conservative members of the committee opposed the idea of hearings -- at least for now.
"It's premature," said Tory MP Dave MacKenzie, noting others including the Toronto Police Services Board were already looking into the matter and should be allowed to complete their work.
MacKenzie said police did a fine job of dealing with the "thugs, hooligans and anarchists" who wreaked havoc at the protests.
Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland told the committee the issue is not front-line police officers. "The issue is the prime minister that put them there."
Holland called the G20 a "security nightmare" and "absolute farce" that should never have taken place in a major city, where property damage was predictable.
New Democrat MP Paul Dewar chided government members for associating those who stand up for civil liberties with violent thugs.
Dewar noted the Harper government had declared the need for a safe and secure summit.
"Well, it didn't happen, guys," said the visibly agitated Dewar. "We have to find out what went wrong."
The meeting was adjourned without deciding on the motion -- much to the consternation of opposition MPs.
"The buck stops with the Conservatives on this issue," said Dewar.
"We could've got some work done here today, and they refused to."
Holland said the committee would be recalled next week to vote on whether to delve into summit policing and security issues.
"I think it's clear that the government is trying to hide," he said. "They're hoping that the summer is going to wash this all away."
The poll indicates a majority in all regions and across all groups felt the police response in Toronto was appropriate. However, younger Canadians and those in Quebec were most likely to say it was inappropriate.