An Open Letter to Councillor Adam Vaughan, Re: G20 Security and the Removal of Trees

Dear Councillor Vaughan,

I am writing you to express my concern that trees may be torn up in the downtown core as part of the security measures for the upcoming G20 Summit taking place here in Toronto. I am writing to you, in particular, because I am a resident of Trinity-Spadina, and because you were quoted in the National Post piece that brought the issue of the trees to my attention. The removal of the trees is an unnecessary and disgraceful addition to what has already become a shameful display of security theatre.

There are police officers in my family, and many close family friends are also officers, some serving as constables on the street, some in higher, supervisory or investigative roles at various police services across this country, including in the RCMP. I understand their professionalism, their commitment to public safety, and it is my most profound wish that everyone—ordinary citizens, visiting officials, protesters, and police and security officers alike—make it through the Summit safely. Unfortunately what I see in the news is not professionalism, but rather a show being put on, perhaps in response to considerable pressure and public scrutiny, not the least of which concerns the Summit’s vastly inflated budget.

Professionalism demands balanced, reasonable preparations and responses in order to ensure the safety of citizens, visitors, and property. I and my fellow Torontonians have watched the announced security preparations slide from being professional and measured, to a wasteful farce, and now finally to a dangerous obscenity, a baroque and overblown theatre of the absurd.

The citizens of Toronto do not need a police state to keep us safe. We do not need our public transit infrastructure disrupted, our reporters harassed, our green spaces and other urban flora violated, our neighbourhood communities cordoned off from one another. We do not need checkpoints and credentials to enter or leave our own homes, to be safe. What we need is measured, responsible policing, that understands the city, that respects and works with its citizens. We need a city council that will stand up for these things, even against the Integrated Security Unit and the federal government. It seems that, for the coming Summit, we have too much of what we don’t need, and precious little of what we do.

This most recent measure, the tearing down of trees to prevent their use as weapons, seems far more likely to provoke unwanted behaviour than to curtail it. It is, as Mark Calzavara put it, “insane.” Your comments to the Post appear to justify this insanity, to give it your and the City Council’s tacit approval. To give such approval is craven in the extreme, and does not, in my opinion, represent the best interests of your ward, or the city as a whole. I have seen comments you have made regarding financial compensation for businesses affected by the Summit, but no criticism at all of the security measures themselves. If you and the other councillors lack the fortitude to speak out against this absurdity, then I am ashamed to have you as my representatives, ashamed to live in a city that accepts such things. If the city is this willing to abandon the best interests of its citizens in the name of security—for what has been widely acknowledged as little more than a photo-op—what will happen if a real emergency, a genuine security crisis, ever comes to Toronto? What faith can I have that whoever is in charge will respond to an appropriate degree, now that you have shown us this total submission to paranoia? The answer is none.

I have lived in Toronto nearly four years now, the whole time in Trinity-Spadina. In that time, and in my travels around the city, though I have twice been mugged, I have never once been afraid to live in Toronto, to walk its streets. Until now. When the G20 Summit arrives, I will stay indoors, out of fear. But make no mistake: I am not afraid of any protesters. In the atmosphere of fear and mistrust that has been created, I am afraid that because of the stupidity the Integrated Security Unit has brought down on our city—the stupidity that you have allowed to go largely unchallenged—some poor, work-a-day police officer, infected by the paranoia and under tremendous pressure, will overreact to something innocuous, and I or someone I care about will suffer for it. All of this security has not made me feel safer, Mr Vaughan; it has made me more afraid than I have ever been.

Thank you for your time.

Sincerely,

August C. Bourré

August

Writer. Editor. Critic.

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