December 21, 2010: TORONTO, MISSISSAUGA NEW CREDIT—Jailed G20 defendant Alex Hundert will be starting trial on January 31, 2011 over allegations that his participation in University panel discussions in September this year contravened his bail condition to not participate in public demonstrations. Since the G20, Hundert has been forced to spend some 120 days in jail without going to trial for original charge of alleged “conspiracy” or any of the subsequent charges the Crown laid on him.
At the upcoming trial, the Crown will be arguing that speaking as an invited panelist at discussions at Wilfrid Laurier University on September 15, and at Ryerson University on September 17 (video for which is available at http://vimeo.com/15096905) constituted a public demonstration; a categorization also made by Justice of the Peace Inderpaul Chandhoke that Hundert and his lawyer will be challenging.
This conflation of public demonstrations and university panel discussions by the Crown and the JP has left University faculty across the province shocked and outraged. The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations recently issued a statement in defence of Hundert saying, “Panel discussions are in no way public demonstrations, but are in fact a central part of the mission of our universities – promoting critical thought and developing knowledge. … This criminalization of legitimate dissent represents an assault on both Mr. Hundert’s freedom of expression and the freedom of our universities to foster debate and discussion on issues of public importance.”
Similarly, another strongly worded letter to the Attorney General of Ontario signed by 137 faculty members at York University stated, “We believe that Alex’s arrest for breach of bail conditions, and his subsequent bail conditions violate his Charter Rights, in particular, his freedom of association and assembly, and freedom of expression….We see it as part of a larger move to criminalize dissent and opposition to government policies.” The letter also went on to say, “Such arrests are having a chilling effect on discussions of such policies on university campuses and in the community.”
From jail, Hundert commented, “This fight which is about to enter a court of law is not just about the right to freedom of speech, it is about spaces where freedom is possible. The university is a space for ideas and campuses are a space where dissent is supposed to be protected. This fight is about defending those spaces.”
Added Rachel Avery, member of the organization AW@L and supporter of Hundert, “The crackdown during the G20, which involved hundreds of people being violently removed from the streets without charge, is a pattern that has continued beyond its most public moment in June. The recent report by the Ontario Ombudsman makes clear the collusion between police and multiple levels of government and thus their intention to stamp out dissent with presumed impunity.”
Originally arrested in a pre-emptive house raid on the morning of June 26, Hundert had been out on bail under draconian conditions that included a “no public demonstration” clause, a clause which the activist, and G20 defendant Jaggi Singh has mounted a constitutional challenge against. Hundert was re-arrested shortly after the speaking event at Ryerson University at his father’s house under the charge that he had breached his “no public demonstration” bail condition. Subsequently he was coerced into signing, and released under even more restrictive bail conditions, but was re-arrested a third time on Saturday, October 23. He has been in jail ever since.