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Toews on protests

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Public Safety Minister Vic Toews made an appearance at the Public Safety committee this afternoon to defend the nearly $1 billion spent on security at the G8/G20 summits last June.

The appearance was not really remarkable except that Toews has been criticized of late for refusing to appear before committees on other occasions when asked, including another request by the same committee for Toews to answer questions about accusations from the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service that Canadian politicians were being unduly influenced by foreign governments.

Mostly today’s meeting was another example of just how dysfunctional committees have become in this parliament.

People talk over one another and the entire exercise seemed more about attempting to embarrass and score political points against opponents rather than actually getting any information on what happened or solving problems.

It was actually painful to watch.

The only real thing gleaned from the event is that Toews can’t entirely explain the costs for security because not all the bills have come in yet. The Auditor General is looking at the matter though, Toews assured everyone.

There were attempts to get Toews to explain whether he thought any rights had been trampled with the mass arrests of protesters – most of whom were eventually released without any charges. Bloc MP Maria Mourani wanted Toews to apologize to the protesters or call an inquiry into what happened. (She also clearly tried to make Toews uncomfortable with references to women not being given feminine hygiene products while held in jail even though they started menstruating because they didn’t have access to their birth-control pills, because as we all know that is exactly the issue the public safety minister should be concerned about).

Toews repeatedly told her and others that he doesn’t make operational decisions for police forces, and that politicians should not get involved in those decisions.

Toews also made what sounded like his first public reference to the recent protest against his receipt of an honorary degree at the University of Winnipeg two Sundays ago. (Students from the U of W rallied outside the convocation saying Toews’ record on human rights and stance against things like gay marriage rights meant he didn’t deserve the honour. Valedictorian Erin Larson also used part of her speech to chastise Toews and the university.

Toews left the university without commenting about the incident and has not talked about it in public yet.

But responding to Mourani’s demand for an apology and an inquiry today, Toews said Canada was among the most free countries in the world when it comes to protesting.

"I’ve been subject to a protest from time to time myself," he said. "I’ve always been pleased people would recognize me in that way even if I don’t agree with them."

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About Mia Rabson

Mia Rabson is a born and bred Winnipegger whose interest in politics seemed clear when she dressed up as Prime Minister Brian Mulroney for Halloween in the 7th grade.

Her interest in writing was no surprise to her parents, who learned early in Mia’s life that no piece of blank paper — or wall, for that matter — was safe in her hands.

She holds an honours BA in English from Queen’s University, a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Western Ontario, and has completed a political journalism fellowship in Washington, D.C. with the Washington Centre for Politics and Journalism.

Prior to working for the Winnipeg Free Press, Mia briefly worked for the Detroit News in the paper’s Washington bureau.

Mia joined the Free Press team in February 2001, and in April 2001 was appointed to the Manitoba legislature bureau. In December 2004, she was appointed bureau chief at the legislature. She became the newspaper’s parliamentary bureau chief/national reporter in Ottawa in January 2008.

In 2008 she was nominated for a Michener Award with a team of reporters from the Free Press for its coverage of the province’s child welfare system.

She counts reliving the invasion at Dieppe, France, with veterans of the failed Second World War expedition and overcoming her fear of heights to touch the Golden Boy statue atop the Legislative Building among her favourite experiences as a reporter.

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