Inquiry criticises police action at student protest

August 10, 2001

An inquiry has criticised the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for "inappropriate conduct" while trying to quell student protests during an international summit on global trade at the University of British Columbia nearly four years ago.

The interim report on the violent confrontations outside the meeting of leaders of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group says that university campuses are not ideal venues for conferences of world leaders, who feel the need to be insulated from protests.

The now-deposed leader of Indonesia, General Suharto, whose eventual downfall was precipitated by months of demonstrations in Jakarta, was among 18 Apec leaders at the summit in November 1997.

On November 25, the RCMP were filmed near the Vancouver campus dousing dozens of students and reporters with pepper spray as officers tried to clear a route for delegates. They later arrested 42 demonstrators.

The inquiry was asked to look into complaints by protestors, some of whom reported being strip-searched in public, with one student arrested for simply carrying a sign. Many complainants believed prime minister Jean Chrétien was capitulating to the Indonesian president, who had said he would not attend any meetings that were accompanied by protests.

The interim report blames RCMP senior officers for putting junior officers in a difficult position and chastises the Canadian prime minister's office for its influence on the security detail.

Inquiry commissioner Ted Hughes, a retired judge, reported that those holding key positions for summit security were responsible for the poor planning that left "an atmosphere of confusion and chaos".

The prime minister is not named in the report, but Mr Hughes singled out his former aide Jean Carle, saying that he wrongly pressured police to remove students camping on the grounds of the university and that the RCMP "succumbed to government influence".

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