The initiators of the "Committee to Defend Democratic Rights at UofT" (CDDR) include the presidents of both UofT's Students' Administrative Council and Graduate Students Union. The following is the CDDR's October 1998 founding statement:
On October 16th, Toronto plainclothes police, backed by at least a dozen uniformed cops, arrested UofT staff member Tom Reid at a student demonstration at Queens Park. Tom was released only on the condition that he not participate in future protests or demonstrations at UofT. When a staff member of the Arts and Science Students Union sat down behind the paddy wagon demanding to know the reason for the arrest, he was hauled to the side and then kicked in the head by a member of the Toronto police force. Tom was taken to 52 Division station where he was charged with assaulting a member of UofT security during an earlier protest on October 7th. The October 7th demonstration took place in Hart House to protest the fact that Rob Sampson, Mike Harris' minister of privatization, was holding a $150 a plate fund-raising dinner for his re-election. Of course the corporate types who bought tickets to try to ensure access to the future privatization trough were irritated by having to listen to 50 noisy protesters, some of whom managed to make it into the dining hall.
After 15 minutes with the Tory insiders, the demonstrators marched out, but they had marred the would-be privateers' evening out with Rob Sampson. The displeasure of the Harris supporters was parallelled by the false allegation of assault by one of the UofT security guards in attendance at the demonstration. Those who were present know that there was no assault, and that Tom in particular was guilty of nothing more than participating in the anti-privatization protest. The decision, ten days later, to charge Tom with assault is clearly political--it is an assertion of the "right" of the rich and the well-connected to line their pockets privatizing everything from education to healthcare without having to put up with criticism or protests.
In recent years we have seen an explosion of corporate pollution all over campus. From the library to the bathroom, you can't go anywhere without seeing an ad or corporate logo staring you in the face. Big business funding, which Simcoe Hall so desperately pursues, comes with plenty of strings attached. While the university still formally tolerates the right to dissent, the message being sent out by crude attempts at political intimidation such as the "assault" charges for the October 7th demonstration is that those who try to exercise their right to oppose the corporate agenda put themselves in jeopardy. The fundamentally political character of this whole episode is underlined by the prohibition of participation in future protests or demonstrations at UofT. This is the same tactic used against APEC protesters at UBC a year ago.
Such attacks on democratic rights must be exposed through education and publicity as well as through a vigorous legal defense campaign. To that end we, the undersigned organizations and individuals, have come together to launch the Committee to Defend Democratic Rights at UofT. In addition to defending those singled out for victimization, we also believe it is important to draw attention to some of the larger issues. While we represent a considerable spectrum of political ideas, we share a commitment to the view that democratic rights are inviolable--and that an injustice to one is a danger to all.
Bruce Allen, 1st Vice President, St. Catherines and District
*Organization listed for identification purposes only.
THE STORY SO FAR...
Since the CDDR founding statement was issued the following significant developments have occurred in the case:
November 3: UofT Administration Threatens Double Jeopardy
On November 3rd, Tom was called and instructed to attend a meeting initiated by UofT's Labour Relations Department at the suggestion of Vice President Michael Finlayson. He was advised that the meeting could result in disciplinary measures. After Peter Mountain, CUPE 1230 president, spoke to Mary Anne Ross, acting head of Labour Relations at UofT, this meeting was suspended, at least for the time being.
November 13 Hearing: Covert Surveillance by UofT Police
On November 13th, at Tom's initial "set date" court appearance, Gareth Morley, a member of the legal defense team, attempted to challenge the restriction imposed on Tom's participation in future demonstrations on campus. The justice of the peace refused to consider this challenge, but indicated that it could be raised at the next hearing.
Chris Ramsaroop, president of the UofT Students' Administrative Council, was among a group of students and others who attended the November 13th hearing. Chris identified a member of the UofT police sitting unobtrusively in the back row of the courtroom wearing plainclothes. This covert surveillance by UofT security suggests that an active interest is being taken in the case by the UofT administration.
January 19 Hearing: Demonstration Ban Overturned
On Tuesday 19 January, the Crown agreed to hear the challenge to the condition barring Tom from demonstrations on UofT property.
Gareth pointed out that this restriction paralleled those imposed on APEC protestors in Vancouver in 1997 and argued that, among other things, the condition violated Tom's:
Gareth presented a substantial number of cases, some dealing with situations very similar to Tom's, in which comparable restrictions had been rejected. The judge ruled that the previous case law had established that such a condition constituted an infringement of Tom's legally protected rights and removed the condition.
Tom was fortunate to have competent and active legal support, but many people in similar situations are not so lucky. The routine imposition of such undemocratic and unconstitutional conditions by police is an incursion on the rights and freedoms of all citizens. Like strip-searching and other arbitrary abuses of power, the police direct them arbitrarily at whom they choose.
In future, activists can refer to Tom's case, as well as others cited by Gareth in his submission, to establish the basic proposition that the cops cannot criminalize the right to legal protest for individuals who have been previously arrested. This is significant for all leftists, trade unionists and social activists, and it is important that word of this decision gets the widest possible publicity.
WHAT YOU CAN DO...
Your support and contributions are vital to a successful defense. Join with us to demand: DROP THE CHARGE AGAINST TOM REID!
The CDDR can be contacted via e-mail at:
Media can contact Peter Mountain, CUPE 1230, tel. 978-7682 work/763-1519 home or Stephen Pender, president Graduate Students Union (UofT), tel. 978-2391
Cheques should be made payable to "Tom Reid Legal Defense" and sent to Susan Chater, Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, 120 St. George St., Toronto, Canada
Martin Niemoller, a Lutheran clergyman and captain of a German submarine in the First World War who was later sent to a Nazi concentration camp observed:
NOW Magazine, a widely-circulated Toronto entertainment weekly carried the following item on the case in its 21 January issue:
U of T protester wins rights fight
An Ontario judge has ruled that the police can't impose restrictions on someone's political rights as a condition of their release from jail.
Protester Tom Reid was arrested for allegedly assaulting a security guard at a University of Toronto demonstration outside a $150-a-plate fundraiser for Tory privatization minister Rob Sampson in October.
As a condition of his release, he was barred by police from taking part in any protests on U of T property.
But Reid's legal assistant, Gareth Morley, argued in a court appearance Tuesday that the ban violates his charter right to freedom of expression.
Judge William August of the Ontario court, provincial division, agreed, and lifted the ban. Reid's case on the assault charge will be heard February 24.
It's saying to the police that they have to protect people's right to political protest even if they've been arrested," Morley says.
U of T campus police manager Lee McKergow says he can't comment, since Reid's case is still before the courts.
The president of UofT's undergraduate student council wrote the following letter to NOW in response:
27 January 1999
To the editor:
I appreciated the coverage of our recent legal victory ("UofT protester wins rights fight," January 21), but noted a couple of minor errors--Tom Reid's next court date is February 22, not 24, and this is only a hearing to set a date, not to try the case.
As one of the key organizers of the protest against Rob Sampson, Mike Harris' privatization minister, I was present at the event and can attest that the charge of assault laid against Tom is completely groundless.
I believe that this arrest was politically motivated. The UofT administration's prostration before corporate interests determined the 1997 decision to grant an honorary degree to war criminal George Bush. More recently the prospect of a major donation from Apotex Inc. accounts for the university's failure to defend Dr. Nancy Olivieri, a member of the medical faculty, in the scandal at Sick Kids Hospital.
The corporate biggies who paid $150 to attend Rob Sampson's campus fund-raiser included many of the same people that UofT is trying to get future donations from. The arrest of Tom Reid, nine days after the event, was to signal that UofT is a corporate-friendly zone.
The Committee to Defend Democratic Rights at UofT is holding our own fund-raiser to help cover Tom's legal costs on Saturday, February 20, at the Green Room on Brunswick Ave. Tickets are on sale at the SAC office for $10. I can guarantee we'll have at least 15 times as much fun as the Tories did at Hart House in October.