This week, we learned that the Toronto Police Service will be ordering C8 carbine semi-automatic assault rifles for front-line police officers. The assault rifles, produced by arms manufacturer Colt Canada for the Canadian Forces, will cost $2,500 each, and will be in patrol cars on the streets of Canada's largest city by May. Toronto becomes only the latest municipality to acquire a weapon described on its website as "battle proven in harsh combat environments."
A recent intelligence report warns that peaceful anti-petroleum protests could be infiltrated by extremists to incite violence. While the report itself was just released, the actual study likely pre-dates the new Liberal government. It was probably intended as a companion to Bill C-51, which many Canadians have seen as an attempt to curtail the right to demonstrate on hot-button issues like proposed pipelines.
The reality is that in Toronto, as in most police services across the continent, the vast majority of serving police officers are exceptional public servants. The bad news is that reality is entirely irrelevant. People don't form judgments or base their decisions and actions on reality. They base them on their perceptions. And a fast-growing segment of society in Toronto, in Chicago, in New York City, in Ferguson, in cities and towns across North America, perceive their police services to be acting for their own benefit -- not society's.
Recently, I heard a Grade 6 student explain that he and his friends had walked out of school to protest against a government measure that they believed had resulted in their teachers' rights being taken away. The principal was not impressed. I think we should be very impressed. What are our children in Canada seeing in the streets of our cities and towns? Idle No More, Occupy, protests in Ontario and Quebec by teachers and students -- and remember the G-20 protests in Toronto in 2010? While some of us looked the other way, the children are still watching.