Torn pants no joke, says Svend

Svend Robinson speaks with a local Kingston constituent at the John Deutsch University Centre last Thursday.
Svend Robinson speaks with a local Kingston constituent at the John Deutsch University Centre last Thursday.

Svend Robinson, the New Democrat MP who is suing the RCMP and the federal government over what he calls excessive force at the Quebec City summit, explained his reasons for filing the lawsuit at an NDP fundraiser in the John Deutsch University Centre last Thursday.

The lawsuit was filed because the government refused to launch an inquiry into the tactics used by RCMP officers, said Robinson.

"The government told [me] to forget it," Robinson told the 75 people present for the NDP dinner held in Wallace Hall.

"If they're not prepared to do that, then as a citizen of this country I will sue the government of Canada and I will sue the RCMP," Robinson said.

At the Summit of the Americas last month, Robinson was hit in the leg with a plastic bullet and tear-gassed.

The British Columbia MP wouldn't comment on a second lawsuit he filed against the National Post.

That lawsuit claims the newspaper took statements Robinson made about his pants being torn and used them out of context.

The Post ran a series of farcical articles, purporting to raise money for a New Pants for Svend fund.

There was nothing funny about the violence in Quebec City, Robinson said.

Only by turn to his lawyer Clayton Ruby was he taken seriously, he said.

"You shouldn't have to do that. You shouldn't have to turn to Clayton Ruby to make sure that police don't stomp on the rights of individuals."

Robinson also used his speech to address a number of issues from free trade to the current state of the NDP.

He admitted his party had gone through rough times recently, calling the last year "a slaughter" for the NDP.

Robinson made it clear that the party is trying to bridge the gap between the young activists who protested in Quebec City and the traditional parliamentary left.

"We decided one of the most effective ways to send a signal was for every single member of the New Democratic Party caucus to be in Quebec City," he said.

"I sponsored a teach-in for civil disobedience, which the prime minister didn't like too much, but civil disobedience is an effective tool against an oppressive government."

The effort to appeal to the so-called new left was apparent in his talk. Robinson tackled issues similar to the ones raised by protesters at the Summit, such as corporate power, the role of elected officials and the transparency of trade agreements.

"One of the most fruitful rules of democracy is to have information available on which democratic decisions are based," said Robinson.

"But at the FTAA hearings, we hadn't seen the text. That was two months ago... two months later, and we still haven't seen it."

"That's not democracy. That's contempt for democracy."

Some audience members expressed concern over what they saw as a growing split on the left between the NDP and the Green Party.

In the recent B.C. provincial election, the NDP not only lost power but also lost official party status, winning just three seats.

Many New Democrat voters turned to the Greens, who received 12 per cent of the vote. In an Ontario byelection earlier this year, Green candidate Richard Thomas finished ahead of the NDP candidate in Parry Sound-Muskoka.

Robinson said he doesn't view the Greens as a threat.

"Their world view is very narrow and they haven't taken a stand on some other important issues," he said.

"I would hope [the NDP] could take a progressive, holistic view which includes the environment and attract both voters."

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