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Interview: G20 defendant Jaggi Singh challenges his bail conditions

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In an email interview, Jaggi Singh discusses the reasons why he is challenging his restrictive bail conditions in the Ontario Superior Court on Wednesday at 361 University Avenue in Toronto.

Q: Have you brought your case to the Superior Court because the Crown Attorney refused to grant any changes in your bail conditions?

JS: Yes, the Crown has not consented to any changes in bail conditions in my case. But, I'm making the larger argument that the entirety of the bail conditions -- house arrest, non-association, ban on demos, not possessing a passport, not using a cell phone -- are exaggerated, unnecessary and punitive. I'm contesting the entire logic of the bail conditions that the Crown requested and that previous justices of the peace readily granted. So, to effectively make that larger argument that rejects the Crown's logic I need to go in front of a judge at Superior Court. The Crown will not grant me something that fundamentally changes the parameters of the conditions.

Q: It is not enough to simply want a bail condition changed before you can bring an application in Superior Court. An accused person must also show that the judge or justice who imposed the original bail conditions made either an error of law by imposing the conditions they did or that there has been a material change in the accused person's circumstances to warrant the change of bail conditions. Which is it in your case?

JS: We're arguing mainly the former. The imposition of the no-demonstration condition, and well as the other conditions, was deeply problematic at its origin. But, I was not able to challenge those imposed conditions because several co-accused had been released on those conditions before me, and they were the default conditions for release for other co-accused on the conspiracy case. I made the decision that it was better to fight those conditions outside of jail than inside it. I have been frustrated by the length of time it has finally taken to get to this stage. I'm hoping that the Crown does not attempt more delays at court on Wednesday.

Here's exactly how the argument is made by my lawyer Peter Rosenthal in the formal application:

THE GROUNDS FOR THE APPLICATION ARE:

(a) Sections 520 and 515 of the Criminal Code, R.S.C. 1985, Chap. C-46;

(b) There have been several changes of circumstances since the release order was made, including:

(i) This review is the first real opportunity for the accused to have his position against the imposition of the conditions adjudicated, since his "show cause hearing" was a continuation of a hearing before a Justice of the Peace who, before the accused had the opportunity to make any submissions, had imposed such conditions on other co-accused and had rendered judgements that did not allow the possibility for the accused to distinguish his case from the previously-considered ones;

(ii) A substantial "disclosure package" was provided by the Crown subsequent to the show cause hearing, and this package does not disclose any evidence that the accused agreed with anyone to do anything;

(iii) It is now apparent that the preliminary hearing concerning the charges herein will be held much later than was anticipated at the time of the show cause hearing;

(iv) By the time of the hearing of this application the accused will have lived under the conditions, which include house arrest and a prohibition against attending demonstrations, for more than four months.

(c) The learned Justice of the Peace erred in law by:

(i) imposing conditions of bail that are not reasonable within the meaning of section 11 (e) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;

(ii) imposing a prohibition on participation in public demonstrations that unjustifiably violates sections 2(a), 2(b), 2(c) and 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;

(iii) characterising the charges as "at the upper end of the gravity scale";

(iv) ignoring the fact that the Crown did not refer to any evidence that the accused or any of his alleged co-conspirators actually participated in any mischief or assaulting or obstructing of any police officers, or influenced anyone to do so; and

(v) failing to relate the imposition of the conditions to any of the proper purposes for restricting liberties pending trial.

(d) Sections 2(a), 2(b), 2 (c), 2 (d) and 11(e) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;

(e) Such further grounds as counsel may advise and this Honourable Court may permit.

THE FOLLOWING DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE will be used at the hearing of the Application:

(a) Recognizance of Bail dated July 12, 2010

(b) Affidavit of Carolina Moreyra

A) Exhibit "A": sworn informations

(c) Affidavit of Jaggi Singh

(d) Affidavit of Bryan Palmer
A) Exhibit "A": Curriculum Vitae

(e) Affidavit of Shannon Franssen [my notation: a member of the Board at QPIRG Concordia, my employer]
A) Exhibit "A": job description

(f) Affidavit of Helen Hudson [a Montreal-based activist, fellow member of the Anarchist Bookfair, who describes my political organizing experience]

(g) Affidavit of Jonah Gindin [my Toronto-based surety, member of OCAP]

(h) Affidavit of Dr. Amir Khadir [one of my Montreal sureties]

(i) Affidavit of Dr. Jill Hanley [one of my Montreal sureties]

(j) Transcript of Show Cause Hearing of Jaggi Singh and Patrick Cadorette

(k) Transcript of Show Cause Hearing of Syed Hussan

(l) Transcript of Show Cause Hearing of Meghan Lankin

(m) Overview of Investigation

(n) Transcript of meeting of June 25, 2010

(o) Such further and other material as counsel may advise and this Honourable Court may permit.

Dated at Toronto October 28, 2010
ROACH, SCHWARTZ & ASSOCIATES

Barristers & Solicitors

688 St. Clair Avenue West

Toronto, Ontario M6C 1B1

Peter Rosenthal, LSUC No. 330 44O

Tel: (416) 657-1465

Fax: (416) 657-1511

Solicitors for the Applicant

Q: Last I checked a person was innocent until proven guilty. That being the case, how can an innocent person be deprived of their rights as you obviously are with these restrictive bail conditions?

JS: Bail law, such as it is, is a twilight zone in an already problematic legal system. It's arbitrary and ambiguous. And, because bail is temporary, and most accused are waiting out trials (or making pleas) challenging bail conditions as a whole is very, very rare.

Essentially, bail conditions get used by Crowns to make the legal process itself a punishment (as opposed to any sentence after being duly found guilty assuming people not get found guilty; in my previous experiences, I've had a lot of success in beating back charges).

The problematic nature of bail law has been explored by lawyer Jackie Esmonde. Here's a short piece she recently wrote:
http://www.newsocialist.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id...

Here's a longer piece by her in the Osgoode Hall Law Journal: http://www.ohlj.ca/archive/articles/41_23_esmonde.pdf

Interesting quote in the latter article (which was written back in 2003!): "The criminalization of dissent, and the attack on movement leadership, could not be more explicit than it is for Jaggi Singh." (page 356).

Q: Describe what life has been like for you during the past four months?

JS: I'm as active as ever as a community organizer and activist in Montreal. I'm frustrated at the clear limitations on my organizing by the bail conditions (not to mention the limitations on my own personal and private life; eg: I need to get notes and have "adult supervisors" if I'm not at work or at the residence of my sureties; I pay rent on an apartment in which I can't reside; etc). Still, I'm still engaged and involved in local organizing. I contribute in other ways, and life continues to be interesting. The G20 arrest and charges take up some time, but they do not define me or my life.

I greatly appreciate the radical networks of support that exist, and that have emerged, to provide tangible solidarity to people dealing with the G20 aftermath. I'm really glad to have met so many amazing new people engaged in radical social justice movements.

I'm particularly satisfied by the role played by the Anti-Capitalist Convergence (CLAC), both before the G20 (in terms of both popular and mobilizing work) as well as afterwards (in doing both political and legal defense work). We recently held a full-day reflection and debrief on anti-capitalist organizing, and it was great to see a truly multi-generational group (folks in their 50s&60s, in their 30s&40s, and in their 20s&teens) working together and strategizing together about building a strong anti-capitalist, anti-authoritarian movement.

In addition to CLAC, I really appreciate the support of group like No One Is Illegal, Solidarity Across Borders. I've been really fortunate to have an amazing employer -- the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) at Concordia.

It's been really great also to re-connect with friends and allies in Toronto.

Again, the bail conditions are frustrating, and the conspiracy charges against me are a concern, but it's definitely not been all negative for me personally.

I am concerned though at how certain people have been targeted for detention (such as Alex Hundert) and for potential deportation (Syed Hussan of NOII-Toronto) and it pains me that due to non-association conditions I can't even express my concern or solidarity to them directly.

Q: Part of your application includes an extended affidavit by historian Bryan Palmer, a Canada Research Chair at Trent University and a historian of labour and social movements. Can you tell us briefly what Mr. Palmer says on your behalf?

JS: Here is an excerpt: "Depriving a person of the right to protest, broadly defined, is a dangerous threat to the rights of citizenship in democratic society, and, if imposed on any individual without due consideration of the larger statement that such restriction entails it weakens democracy and disables the possibility of potentially necessary social change."

Q: PEN Canada is also supporting your appeal? What do they have to say about the "no demonstration" condition?

JS: The PEN Canada release is here: http://www.pencanada.ca/library/media2010/G20_bail_intervention-10nov10.pdf

I have no illusions that I'm making fundamental radical political arguments in court. My lawyer will be making the basic (but in this case, necessary) liberal arguments about due process, the right to demonstrate, and basic procedural fairness. However, even with those liberal constraints, the PEN Canada statement is very strong, in my opinion.

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