Toronto police pay $16.5m to protesters wrongfully held at 2010 G20 summit

About 1,100 protesters who were wrongfully detained at the 2010 G20 summit in Toronto will receive compensation from the city’s police force after a historic C$16.5m (US$12.5m) settlement in a class-action lawsuit.

Under the settlement, which was announced late on Monday, each claimant will receive between $5,000 and $24,700, depending on the nature of their detention. They will also have their G20 protest-related records expunged.

Thousands of protesters travelled to downtown Toronto to protest against the convening of the G20 summit. The causes were numerous – anti-globalization, anti-poverty, pro-environment, pro-gay rights – and the protests leading up to the 26–27 June summit were peaceful.

During the summit, however, police cars were set on fire and a small band of masked protesters incited vandalism and violence.

The police responded by encircling more than a thousand people – including peaceful protesters, onlookers and journalists – at various locations then carried out mass arrests. At one point, hundreds were “kettled” in a torrential downpour and left to shiver in the cold.

Video footage at the time also showed officers using excessive force, teargas, pepper spray and rubber bullets against protesters.

At the makeshift detention centre, detainees were strip-searched. In 2014, Vice reported that the police trained surveillance cameras on the strip search rooms.

Ontario court judges later found that the police’s actions contravened the protesters’ civil rights, specifically their Charter rights to expression and peaceful assembly.

Supt David (Mark) Fenton – one of only a handful of officers, and the only senior officer, held responsible for the police’s actions at the G20 protest – said he chose to conduct mass and indiscriminate arrests in an attempt to “take back the city”. His punishment resulted in the loss of 60 paid vacation days.

The settlement comes after “10 years of intense court proceedings and difficult negotiations” according to the class-action group’s website.

As part of the settlement, Toronto Police Services are required to make a public statement regarding its role in the G20 affair. That statement will only be released when the court approves the settlement in October.

Toronto police were also required to make a public commitment about how it will better handle protests in the future.

Those details, found in the settlement document, include changes to containment and detention procedures.

Sherry Good, a representative of the complainants, said she was still troubled by her memories of what happened.

“The terrifying way in which I and 400 others were suddenly and arbitrarily surrounded and held by riot police on a street corner for four hours in a freezing downpour changed forever the way I look at police, and continues to give me chills.

“I believe that this settlement agreement does bring about some justice, and I hope, and I think, that our freedom of expression rights will now be better respected for a long time to come,” she said in a statement.