Monday, June 28, 2010

All rights, but no responsibilities

These days we hear a lot about our rights and freedoms, but very little is ever said about our obligations and responsibilities. Why, I wonder, is that? We all hear New Democrat MPs and their supporters go on about our rights to do all sorts of things and to get all manner of benefits from our governments. But when was the last time anyone heard an NDP leader or elected official remind us of our obligations and responsibilities as citizens and residents that come with all those rights?

“My city feels like a crime scene and the criminals are all melting into the night, fleeing the scene. No, I’m not talking about the kids in black who smashed windows and burned cop cars on Saturday.

“I’m talking about the heads of state who, on Sunday night, smashed social safety nets and burned good jobs in the middle of a recession.”

Naomi Klein
June 28, 2010

Democracy will fail when rights and freedoms are not exercised responsibly. We saw some of that breakdown on the weekend when so-called peaceful demonstrations in Toronto were hijacked by black-clad anarchists.

The labour unions that demonstrated on Saturday afternoon apparently had marshals on duty to keep order during their march, but when things turned ugly, the union supporters seemed either to take off or they joined in the “fun”.

Except for the police and a feeble attempt by Mayor David Miller to blame the violence on out-of-towners, there was little to be heard from political or community leaders that could be considered a call for peace and order on the part of onlookers and other participants. Oh, we had condemnations, but they were addressed at the anarchists—little or no responsibility was, apparently, extended to those who took pictures and cheered on the hoodlums.

And Premier Dalton McGuinty was conspicuous by his silence. I think there was a written statement from him read out on TV, but he was no where to be seen. The capital of Ontario was under attack and our fearless leader was nowhere to be seen. How typical. How gutless.

We did hear, however, repeated assurances of  our right to peaceful protest and to demonstrate. But no one asked people to get off the streets or to clear the areas where the violence was getting out of hand.

I saw one man restrain a youth who was smashing at a store window, but he was himself accosted by others who forced him to release the lad. Hundreds stood by taking pictures without making any serious attempt to get off the streets so police could get on with their jobs.

The onlookers and protesters had a right to be there, but, apparently, no obligations or responsibilities to go along with that right. And our democracy is poorer for that.

On Saturday, Torontonians stood and cheered as cars were being burned on their streets. Today, we hear it was all about police brutality and indiscriminate arrests.


Return to Main page »
© 2010 Russell G. Campbell
All rights reserved.


  1. Poor Naomi Klein, it must have reminded her of April 2001, in Quebec City!

    ''...That summit in Quebec City was marked by the appearance of the now-infamous Black Block protesters who smashed windows and hurled projectiles at police.

    That 2001 summit ended with 463 arrests, more than $2.5 million in damages, and widespread complaints about police manhandling peaceful protesters.

    Much like Toronto, the 2001 summit was held within a fenced-in part of the city.

    In both summits, at first, police held back somewhat as unruly protesters caused damage early on; then they responded far more aggressively on the second day, even against peaceful protesters, and were accused of abusing their powers...''

  2. ps Jonathan Kay has an eye witness comparison of Quebec 2001 and Toronto 2010.

    This 'riot' was a sissy compared to 2001. Only 20k people showed up vs 68k in Quebec.
    The tear gas was so thick in 2001 delegates couldn't leave the building!

    Maybe Naomi missed the 2001 Summit of the Americas....

  3. Should blocking traffic be considered a constitutional right?