The time to take action on Toronto G20 summit security was 2009

Planners had a decade to see the pattern of chaos, and avoid repeating it

Darren Calabrese/CP Images

The various reports now blasting police crowd control measures and violations of civil rights during the G20 fiasco in Toronto in 2010 are a classic case of closing the barn door after the horse has left.

Any I-told-you-sos now are a day late and a dollar short — actually two years too late and tens of millions of dollars off the mark.

The time to take action for any person holding a relevant responsible position — Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, then-Mayor David Miller, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and Jim Flaherty, the federal cabinet minister with responsibility for Toronto — was in 2009, a year before the June 2010 summit ravaged the city’s core.

It should have been obvious to the planners of the event then that middle of Canada’s largest city, the financial heart of the nation, was not the place to hold a gathering of world leaders that was guaranteed to attract swarms of violent protesters bent on mayhem and confrontation.

And if the bureaucratic party planners were too cowed by the demands of an overbearing prime minister to nay-say his commands, then those aforementioned responsible, representative leaders should have stood up and said ‘No’ to a surefire disaster-in-the-making.

Originally the G20 summit was supposed to be held in locked-down Muskoka with the G8 summit — until the big brains in Ottawa suddenly realized Huntsville wasn’t going to be able to handle the tens of thousands of G20 summiteers, hangers-on and observers.

Thus the switch to Toronto for the G20 portion of the combined billion-dollar photo op.

That was the first time — and almost certainly will be the only time — the G8 and G20 summits were held in conjunction.

This year’s G8 gathering will be held in the fortified presidential compound of Camp David outside Washington, D.C., this weekend. The summit had been originally slated for Chicago but far wiser heads than those attached to the bodies of the Toronto G20 planners prevailed.

And the 2012 G20 summit will be hosted by Mexico in mid-June on the isolated, defensible Baja California peninsula. It will be a quiet, peaceful, safe venue for world leaders to meet and discuss important affairs of state — even in a country torn apart by violence, crime, corruption and mass murder.

But it’s not as if the U.S. and Mexico are learning the right way to do things from Toronto’s bitter experience. Everyone involved in the planning of Toronto 2010 knew — or should have known — that mass demonstrations and outbreaks of violence have plagued every G8 and G20 gathering in the 21st Century. They had a decade to see the pattern and avoid repeating it.

But they didn’t.

Whether it was misplaced national pride or overweening personal willfulness, the decision was made to forge ahead toward a known, anticipated disaster. General Custer, meet the Titanic.

There is more than enough blame to be handed out in post-mortem reports and debates.

But the real blame — the real shame — should be attached to those politicians, bureaucrats and civic leaders who knew better than to let the G20 summit go ahead in Toronto, but allowed it to happen anyway.