Jaggi Singh

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Jaggi Singh (born in March 4, 1971 in Toronto, Canada) is one of Canada's most high-profile anti-globalization and social justice activists. He is an anarchist.[1] Singh lives in Montreal where he works with groups such as Solidarity Across Borders (a local migrant-rights organization) and the No One Is Illegal collective, among others. Singh graduated from St. Michael's College School of Toronto and attended the University of Toronto. He also attended the University of British Columbia.

1997 APEC summit[edit]

Singh first came into the public spotlight during the protests outside the 1997 APEC conference held in Vancouver. According to Canadian Member of Parliament, Svend Robinson, the day before the summit started: "Jaggi Singh, one of the organizers of the APEC alert ... [was] arrested, wrestled to the ground on the UBC campus by three plainclothes police officers, handcuffed, thrown in the back of an unmarked car with tinted glass, driven off and locked up during the APEC summit." [2] Singh was charged with assault after allegedly yelling into the ear of a campus security guard with a megaphone and spent the duration of the conference in jail. In February 1999, the assault charge was dropped by Crown prosecutors before going to trial.[3]

Singh was one of 51 people to file a complaint against the conduct of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) at the APEC summit that sparked a formal investigation by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. In March 2000, he was one of three people to formally withdraw from the inquiry, alleging that Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's rejection of an invitation to testify before the Commission was proof that the process was flawed.[4]

In one of the findings condemning RCMP behavior issued in the final report by the Commission, it was noted that: "Mr. Jaggi Singh was arrested on a warrant based on a spurious charge; the manner of his arrest was inappropriate in the circumstances; the timing of the arrest was calculated to prevent him from attending protests on November 25; the bail conditions sought were overly restrictive." [5]

G-20 & the Quebec City Summit of the Americas[edit]

Singh would continue to attend Canadian rallies and protests, and continued to face arrests. In October 2000, he was arrested at a G-20 protest in Montreal, and charged with "participation in a riot", and illegal assembly and mischief. Police claimed that Jaggi’s speech against the International Monetary Fund incited the crowd, and that he announced the availability of medical help while riot police were charging at the crowd.[6] In April 2003, he was acquitted of the riot charges.[7]

Riot police using tear gas on 21 April 2001 against protestors at the Quebec City Summit of the Americas

Singh gained widespread notoriety as the longest-detained demonstrator arrested by police at the Quebec City Summit of the Americas.[8] Witnesses reported that, "he was grabbed from behind by police masquerading as protesters" and "dragged away in a beige van".[9] Singh was held for a total of 17 days, and charged with breaking conditions from previous arrests and with weapons charges - for a mock catapult that launched teddy bears that was actually constructed and operated by an unrelated group from Edmonton.

During his imprisonment, "Free Jaggi Singh" protests took place in Montreal, and as far away as the Czech Republic, France, Germany and the United States.[10] He was released on $3,000 bail with conditions that prohibited him from leading or organizing any demonstrations or using a megaphone.[11]

In a telephone interview conducted while he was in the Orsainville jail near Quebec, Singh explained his view that legal action against him and other political activists was designed to intimidate them into silence, and split them off from mainstream public opinion:

"Everybody is an idealist. Everybody has this idea that things should be better and that's really a non-ideological thing. The fear is that those idealists will become radicals and start questioning the roots of the system, start questioning the power structure. People in power don't like that. You have to turn these idealists into realists, because once they're realists, they can accept the compromises that opportunists make; those being the politicians.


And how do you turn an idealist into a realist instead of a radical? Well, a baton blow to the head is one way. Getting wafts of tear gas is another. Yet another is making the radicals seem crazy and criminal. Give the distinct impression through the media that you will be jailed. You will be treated differently and it's not worth the trouble. As long as idealists stay that way, or even better become realists or opportunists, that's great." [12]

Protesters carrying a mock catapult at the Quebec City Summit of the Americas

During the lengthy pre-trial process, the weapons charge was dropped, and Singh’s request in November 2003 for a stay of proceedings based on "unreasonable delay and abuse of process," was accepted two months before the case would have gone to trial in January 2004. In his ruling, Judge Beaulieu of the Quebec Superior Court agreed with Singh’s position that: "… the bail conditions imposed on May 2001 have restrained his right to freedom, opinion, expression and the right of freedom of association as protected by article 2 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms." [13]

Pro-Palestinian activism[edit]

Singh is also known for his pro-Palestinian activism and for organizing protests in and around Montreal.[8]

On September 9, 2002, he participated in a protest against a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which was to be presented by the pro-Israel Hillel club at Concordia University, with support from the Asper Foundation.[14] The talk was canceled when confrontations between protestors, police and security agents became violent, resulting in widespread coverage in the media, including an article in The Globe and Mail written by Singh himself.[15] (See full text of article here: [1][dead link])

In January 2003, Singh was deported by Israeli authorities after having gone to the West Bank on an invitation from the International Solidarity Movement. He had initially been denied entrance to the country upon his arrival in December 2002, but fought the decision in court. Though he won the right to stay for three weeks, he was barred from visiting the West Bank.[16] Singh refused to abide by the order and made public his reasons for doing so, writing: "It's not for an occupying power to decide who can or can't enter Palestine... I've decided then to ignore the Israeli security services and listen to the Palestinian activists. It was an easy choice to make."[17] On January 8, 2003, Singh was nabbed by undercover police officers in Jerusalem. He was held at the Russian Compound and then the Maasiyahu Prison, before being deported back to Canada.[18][19]

On January 20, 2003, Singh was to speak at a demonstration in support of students facing disciplinary charges for the September 9 protest against Benjamin Netanyahu. He was arrested on university campus by police and charged with illegal assembly, obstruction, mischief, assault, conspiracy and breaking prior conditions, for the September 9 protest.[7]

All five charges against Singh were dismissed by December 2005.[20] Singh mounted his own defense and filed an abuse of process motion after the prosecution failed to disclose more than 30 unedited videos taken by surveillance cameras the day of the protest. He put it to the court that the videos showed inconsistencies with the evidence given by security guards and supported his version of events.[21] In his ruling, Montreal Municipal Court Judge Pierre Fontaine wrote that the Concordia University Administration had exhibited "gross negligence" that amounted to a "flagrant violation" of Singh's right to a fair trial. The dismissal of the charges at that time meant that Singh enjoyed his first totally clean judicial record in years.[21]

The Crown successfully appealed Judge Fontaine's decision and the charges were reinstated. In his judgement[22] rendered on August 23, 2006, Superior Court of Quebec Judge James Brunton wrote: "the trial judge erred when he held that officials of Concordia University were grossly negligent in not volunteering the production of the videocassettes before receiving a subpoena duces tecum during the motion hearing. My reading of the transcripts leads me to the exact opposite conclusion. Officials of Concordia were exemplary in their co-operation with the prosecution and the Court. They were exemplary in their dealings with the Respondent during the hearing of the motion."

On April 19, 2006, Singh was attending a pro-Palestinian poetry-reading/music fundraising event,[23] organized by Sumoud[24] at the El Salon cafe, when he was arrested by Montreal police.[25] Reports conflict as to what happened exactly. Police say they were responding to an allegation of assault reported by a "taxi driver" outside the cafe. They say they attempted to question Singh about the alleged assault and pursued him inside the cafe to do so, but that many of the 70 people in attendance attempted to obstruct them. Singh says the man who police say was a "taxi driver" was wearing a suit and driving an unmarked SUV. He says that the man pushed him after Singh asked him what he was doing parked on the side of the road wearing an earpiece. Police ended up charging Singh and one other person with obstruction, and three others were given municipal fines.[23]

Media portrayal in United States[edit]

In 2004, the New York Daily News drew reference to Singh in an article about protesters against the Republican National Convention. The article incorrectly spoke of Singh being Muslim (he was born to a Sikh father and Catholic mother), prone to violence, that he was proficient in firearms and received training from Kazi Toure (he has never met Kazi Toure or received any firearms training), and that the teddy-bear launching catapult of the Quebec Summit of the Americas had instead launched molotov cocktails.[26] At the same time, the New York Post published a photo of someone they alleged to be Singh shooting off a handgun. A friend[who?] of his who saw the picture noted: "It is some brown guy with high cheekbones and a Harry Potter haircut, but it's not Jaggi." [27]

Singh does not readily throw himself into the spotlight due to an awareness of how the media likes to develop cults of personality: "I didn't choose to be covered in the way I have been. I've said no to interviews far more often than I've said yes." [27] In 2001, when the CBC's The Fifth Estate aired a documentary profile of Singh, it was difficult to get his cooperation. Anna Maria Tremonti, the show's host, noted that "Often, people clamour to get in front of a microphone. But Jaggi didn't clamour." [27]

Singh does acknowledge that not all his dealings with the media have been bad: "There are some journalists who are willing to take time on a story. That doesn't mean days, it just means making a couple of calls and getting all the background information so the story is not exploitative." [27]

He was interviewed and included in a PBS documentary # Commanding Heights: [2] about the global political economy. Of free trade agreements, like NAFTA, he says: "We are not here to negotiate the terms of our own misery."

Other activism[edit]

Civil liberties & Montreal Police tactics[edit]

Singh provided an "activist arrest and trial calendar" to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights in support of a complaint filed by La Ligue des droits et libertés, outlining heavy-handed Montreal police tactics that had resulted in 2,000 arrests between 1999 and 2004.[28] In November 2005, the UN body's report singled out Montreal police for the disproportionate use of mass arrests, stating: "The State party should ensure that the right of persons to peacefully participate in social protests is respected, and ensure that only those committing criminal offences during demonstrations are arrested ... The Committee also invites the State party to conduct an inquiry into the practices of the Montreal police forces during demonstrations, and wishes to receive more detail about the practical implementation of article 63 of the Criminal Code relating to unlawful assembly."[28] Singh cited the results of the report as a vindication for Montreal activists: "The report validates what protesters have been saying about these protests, that these mass arrests are essentially a tactic by Montreal police to prevent by fear the involvement of young people who take to the streets in protest."[28]

Migrant rights advocacy[edit]

In talks at Concordia University and McGill University of Montreal, Singh has outlined the links between global apartheid and the work of groups like No One Is Illegal towards protecting the rights of refugee claimants in Canada and migrants around the world. He has said that, "You can't define human beings as illegal, as exploitable [or] as non-status." He has also criticized the high bar for refugee status in Canada saying that, "You have to prove that there is a gun to your head or there will be a gun to your head," in order to be allowed to stay.[19][29]

Singh also took part in a protest of Immigration Minister Monte Solberg's speech at the annual meeting of Citizens for Public Justice in 2006, demanding a moratorium on all deportations of refugees. He was one of about a dozen protestors whose presence was cited as a disruption of the event, and which resulted in Solberg cancelling his speech and leaving the hall.[30]

Singh currently produces No One Is Illegal Radio, which is broadcast on CKUT and podcasted by the A-Infos Radio Project.

Protesting Canadian involvement in the War in Afghanistan[edit]

On November 24, 2006, Singh was arrested yet again and charged with violating earlier bail conditions for taking part in a 15-person protest against Canadian involvement in the war on Afghanistan at a press conference convened by Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper at the Montreal General Hospital.[31]

The arresting officer’s report stated that the RCMP asked Singh to leave based on his reputation as a political dissident and that he was arrested for refusing to leave after being asked to by hospital security.[31]

At the bail hearing, the prosecution argued for denial of bail on the basis that Singh’s history of arrests made it likely that he would re-offend.[31] In his defense, Singh stated that, "I was targeted not for what I did, but for my reputation," and further pointed out that he had won five of the six cases previously brought against him.[31]

Singh submitted that, "Standing up and asking a question is not illegal. Standing up and challenging the Prime Minister’s policies is not illegal."[31]

Municipal Court Judge Pascal Pillarella ruled that Singh had not actually violated the conditions of his earlier bail and should not have to spend months in jail awaiting trial. Singh was released on $2000 bail, and his trial for charges including obstruction and assault was scheduled for May 2007.[31][32]

A 3-day trial was held, during which testimony was heard from RCMP and Montreal police officers, as well as hospital security. Representing himself, Singh did not testify. On December 4, 2007, he was convicted of obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duties, as well as breaching court-imposed conditions.[citation needed] Municipal Court Judge Morton Minc later sentenced him to a total of $1000 in fines, plus costs.[citation needed] In his judgment, the judge mentioned among other things Singh's prior convictions, the fact that Singh had shown a total lack of respect for the security forces, and the fact that the offence was committed in a hospital during a conference about cancer, a subject that deserves respect.[citation needed]

International Women's Day 2007[edit]

On March 8, 2007, Singh attended a demonstration for International Women’s Day in Montreal where he was again arrested by police. He was held in jail for five days. At the bail hearing, police contended that Singh violated a bail condition prohibiting him from attending illegal or non-peaceful demonstrations. Several witnesses, including a Cégep professor and a medical resident at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, testified that the women’s day march had been peaceful. He was released on $1000 bail. The judge commented that the "hefty bond" might work to deter Singh’s activism.[32]

A media alert sent out on the day of the march by a fellow demonstrator describes the particulars of Singh’s arrest as follows:

The police made an announcement asking people to walk on the sidewalk. Jaggi Singh, who had been one of many male supporters among the 200 strong celebrating international women's day moved onto the sidewalk. The others continued marching in the street. Police officers began to rush towards Singh, still walking on the sidewalk. They grabbed him and threw him against a nearby police car. Other marchers gathered around the car out of concern for the violent way in which police were intervening. Police began hitting and pushing people indiscriminately. Several people were knocked to the ground with batons and night sticks ... The police showed a total disregard for the injuries mounting around them. They placed Jaggi Singh in the police car and began to leave.[33]

G-20 Toronto 2010[edit]

In June 2010, Singh participated in the protests during the G-20 Summit in Toronto. According to immigrant rights group No One is Illegal, Singh turned himself into Toronto police following the issuance of an arrest warrant.[34] He was granted bail on July 12, after $10,000 was paid by two sureties, one of which was the Québec provincial deputy Amir Khadir, from the Québec Solidaire Party. In addition to this bail, $75,000 more, guaranteed this time by Amir Khadir and two other people whose identities were not revealed, will be charged if Singh breaks his release conditions, which are the following: house arrest at the home of one of the garantors; handing in his passport to the authorities; he must not use a cellular phone; he must not have any contact with the 16 other activists charged with conspiracy in connection with the G20 protests.[35]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Seguin, Rheal (May 5, 2001). "'It makes me the creation of the media'". The Globe and Mail. "Since the age of 17, Mr. Singh was sympathetic to anarchism, but it was at Trinity College, Toronto that he said he became a serious intellectual anarchist. "The label is not important to me. What is important is the spirit that promotes mutual aid and solidarity, anti-authoritarian ideas. I don't shy away from the label either. It's not chaos, it's not disorder, but a body of political idea."" 
  2. ^ House of Commons Representative Svend Robinson (20 October 1998). "Routine Proceedings". Canada's Parliamentary Body, The House of Commons. 
  3. ^ "Crown Drops Charge against APEC Protester". CBC News. 2 February 1999. 
  4. ^ "APEC Protesters Quit Inquiry". CBC News. 1 March 2000. 
  5. ^ "APEC Final Report:Chair's Final Report Following a Public Hearing". Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP. The Government of Canada. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  6. ^ Aziz Choudry (6 December 2002). "Trials and Tribulations:Supporting Our Comrades". Zmag. [dead link]
  7. ^ a b Sara Falconer (13 October 2003). "Jaggi Singh's Legal Troubles". Hour.ca. 
  8. ^ a b Bredesen Lewis (9 February 2004). "Activism is Everyone’s Job:Jaggi Singh". The McGill Daily. 
  9. ^ Allison Dunfield (22 April 2001). "Jaggi Singh in Jail:Confirmed". The Globe and Mail. 
  10. ^ "Activist Jaggi Singh Facing New Charges". CBC News. 3 May 2001. 
  11. ^ "Jaggi Singh Freed On Bail". CBC News. 7 May 2001. 
  12. ^ Lyle Stewart. "Silencing Radical Voices". Zmag. 
  13. ^ Jaggi Singh (9 December 2003). "All Charges Dropped". rabble.ca. 
  14. ^ Karameh, Working Group of Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights Montreal (15 March 2003). "Resistance on Trial at Concordia University: Fighting the Criminalization of Palestinian Solidarity Organizing". Campus Watch. 
  15. ^ Jaggi Singh (13 September 2002). "Day of Broken Glass". The Globe and Mail. 
  16. ^ Ken Hechtman (19 December 2002). "Activist Down! A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Jaggi Singh’s Support Team Back Home". The Montreal Mirror. 
  17. ^ Jaggi Singh (20 December 2002). "Entering Palestine: Defying the Israeli Courts". The Electronic Intifada. 
  18. ^ Jaggi Singh (18 January 2003). "I Was Nabbed, Beaten, and Deported:Jaggi Singh". Scoop:Independent News. 
  19. ^ a b Nigel Parry (8 January 2003). "Israeli Security Forces Kidnap Jaggi Singh". The Electronic Intifada. 
  20. ^ Janice Arnold. "Charges against Netanyahu Protester Dropped". Canadian Jewish News. Retrieved 2007-03-13. [dead link]
  21. ^ a b Aimée van Drimmelen (22 December 2005). "Activists 1, Concordia 0: What a riot". Hour.ca. 
  22. ^ "Judgement of the Quebec Superior Court 2006 QCCS 4784". Retrieved 2007-07-19. 
  23. ^ a b Brendan Murphy (27 April 2006). "Showdown at El Salon". Hour.ca. 
  24. ^ "Sumoud homepage". Sumoud: A Political Prisoner Solidarity Group. 
  25. ^ "Montreal Political Meeting turns Violent". CBC News. 20 April 2006. 
  26. ^ Jaggi Singh (29 August 2004). "In His Own Words:Corporate Media Use Scare-mongering Tactics". rabble.ca. 
  27. ^ a b c d Lisa Sarracini (Spring 2005). "Distrust, Disdain, Deceit". Ryerson Review of Journalism. 
  28. ^ a b c Stephanie O'Hanley (10 November 2005). "Pig Roast:Montreal Police Reprimanded by the UN". Hour.ca. 
  29. ^ Iuliana Petrescu (13 November 2002). "'Global apartheid' at Root of Refugees' Plight, says Singh". The Concordian. 
  30. ^ "Protestors Chase Immigration Minister from Church". CBC News. 1 June 2006. 
  31. ^ a b c d e f Rishi Hargovan (4 December 2006). "I was Targeted not for What I Did, but for my Reputation". The McGill Daily. p. Volume 96 Number 25. 
  32. ^ a b "Jaggi Singh Released on $1000 Bail". The Montreal Gazette. 13 March 2007. 
  33. ^ Dolores Chew (9 March 2007). "Montreal: Police Assault Women at International Women's Day March". Infoshop News. 
  34. ^ "Activist Jaggi Singh arrested for G20 protest". CBC. July 6, 2010. 
  35. ^ "Arrestations au sommet du G20:Amir Khadir se porte garant de Jaggi Singh". Radio-canada.ca. July 12, 2010.