One year later


Two documentaries remind Canadians of the horrors of Toronto’s G20 summit

Ed Kapp

A little more than one year removed from one of the darkest days in Canadian history, two documentaries, Into the Fire and Under Occupation: Toronto G20 Operation serve as two flawed but shocking reminders of Toronto’s recent experience with the G20 Summit.

In June of 2010, leaders of the world’s most prosperous countries convened in Canada for the annual G20 Summit. Parts of Toronto, our nation’s largest city, were put under martial law and as a result the rights of thousands of Canadians were largely suspended.

In what is viewed by many as one of the most egregious assaults on civil liberties in Canadian history, last year’s weekend-long summit saw over 1,100 citizens detained – the vast majority of whom were later released without charge. In the lead up to and during the event, the constitutionally-granted rights of thousands of Canadians were systematically discarded and police powers were, unbeknownst to most Canadians, increased to extraordinary levels.

While both documentaries provide startling images from the event, Into the Fire – using footage from dozens of different witnesses – tells the story of the protest primarily from inside the movement. Under Occupation, on the other hand, focuses largely on archival footage from press conferences and new stories regarding the event, but with an emphasis on footage taken from inside the movement.

Both of these independent films focus not on the “photo-op moments” covered by most of the mainstream media – like rioters throwing bricks through store windows or setting police cruisers alight – but rather on the police forces’ assault on civil liberties and, naturally, both allude to a New World Order. Because the films cover the G20 experience and unearth the blood-curdling stories of many involved in the event – you can take or leave the idea of a New World Order – both films are important for Canadians and those in the international community.

Though both films serve as an important reminder of the events that transpired during the event and are valuable based on that fact alone, neither film, not surprisingly, is without its flaws.

Although it would admittedly be very difficult to cast the event’s security forces in a neutral light – given some of the brutal methods they used to quell legitimate and peaceful protesters – both films appear to be quite slanted in favour of the demonstrators.

Of course, those who leave their homes to protest what they believe to be an unfair policy or regime are completely worthy of respect – no democracy-loving person can deny that fact. But Into the Fire appears to take it one step beyond that and further glamorizes the event’s violent protesters, who were garbed entirely in black using the black-block technique, Although you can hear many complaining of the violent protesters in Into the Fire, with upbeat background music and footage seamlessly spliced in with non-violent gatherers, it appears that violent protesters are glamorized for their destructive actions, despite the fact that those who vandalized property were part of the reason for such a massive crackdown on peaceful gatherers. In contrast, there is a greater emphasis on peaceful demonstrators during Under Occupation and, near the end of the film, one of the protagonists is very vocal about his displeasure in regards to violent protesters.

Additionally, both films rely heavily on background music that is arguably both repetitive and oftentimes, as is the case during the scenes with the violent protesters in Into the Fire, inappropriate.

Yet, despite their flaws – and what some would argue to be flawed allusions to a New World Order – both documentaries serve as valuable educational material for those interested in learning more about Toronto’s G20 experience.

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