My name is Natasha Borris. I am 18 years old, and I reside in Whitby, Ontario. My story seems to have become something of a media sensation.
On Saturday, June 26th, my boyfriend and I boarded the 10:53 train out of Ajax GO station with five of his other (male) friends. We were headed downtown to the G20 protests. As a group of peaceful protesters, we had every single right to be there. We sat quietly on the train, discussing various issues related to the summit, and all of our reasons for protesting.
Whilst riding, we noticed two other passengers (a young woman and her boyfriend) watching us from a few seats down. She seemed oddly distressed, and the two wandered down the stairs and out of sight. Then, moments later, we heard the train’s alarm go off. I was very confused, as we were all sitting very quietly and calmly, minding our own business. We did not say anything that would even suggest we were a threat. We were not doing anything wrong. We decided though that we would sit somewhere else for the duration of the trip, for our own sakes.
As the train pulled into Danforth, two transit security officers boarded and traveled past us in the car. They did not say anything to us. After them, a man in street clothes passed us once, then twice, and then seated himself in our car. Then the doors closed, and the train proceeded towards Union. Upon entering Union, we looked out the window only to see about 30 officers in uniform situation outside our car, and ONLY our car. My heart sank at this point, and I was incredibly confused as to why they were there for us.
Officers surrounded us from both directions, demanding we tell them why we were there. They then escorted us off of the train one by one to officers. The female officer who I was handed off to demanded that I place my bag into her hands. I complied, and she proceeded to illegally search my bag. I was not told why I was being searched, and I was becomingly increasingly more confused as this progressed. I was not given the option to vacate the premises. In my bag, she found my gas mask.
I had purchased my gas mask for my own safety. I am a Biology student at the University of Guelph, and I know the effects of tear gas on the human body are very detrimental. I know tear gas has been used at other G20 summits, and that the Toronto Police threatened to use it here. I was not going to go unprepared. However, I was told that only “violent” protesters used gas masks, and that I must have been looking for trouble. This was a very insulting statement, as I know war veterans, and young children were all wearing gas masks as they protested. Are we to assume that they were violent criminals, too?
Despite my best efforts to reason with her that I would never harm anyone (and that, by looking at me, I do not look like a particularly threatening or menacing person) I was placed under arrest with my boyfriend. We were charged with “breach of the peace”. We were both completely compliant and calm during the whole arrest. I was still not told why we were searched or singled out from all of the other passengers. I was simply told that “I would not be protesting” and that I “made a very poor decision”. I was incredibly offended at the accusation that I had every planned on doing anything wrong. They even had the nerve to accuse me of trying to organize with others who I had never met before, because I had the legal aid number scribbled on my arm, just in case (I got this number from the OCAP website, which they refused to believe). We were taken out to the front of the station and then driven to what we all now refer to as “Torontonamo Bay”.
We were taken off the truck, and put into temporary holding cells until we were ready to see the detectives. As I was moved through the building, almost every officer I encountered asked me my age. When I told them that I was 18, they were all shocked. Some laughed, making rude comments about my appearance under their breath as I walked past. I remained quiet and compliant during this whole ordeal.
Upon seeing the detectives, I was told that I had been charged with breach of the peace, and that they had found marijuana as well. I was shocked, and demanded to know why they were trying to tack on drug charges; I did not have any drugs on my person, nor did my boyfriend. I had no idea that anyone would have; during my arrest I was not made aware of any drugs. However my questions remained unanswered. I was simply told that I had to remain there whilst I was under investigation, but that judging by my charges, I should be let go very soon. He asked me if I wanted to see a lawyer immediately, and I said I was unsure. He muttered something about “so long as I knew I was able to see one” and then whisked me off to be searched. It was a level 2 search. I had my bra removed, as well as my shoelaces and the draw string to my hooded sweater. Finally, I had my cuffs removed, and I was taken to what would be my personal hell for the rest of that day.
The cells were tiny, consisting of only one thin seating bench, and a port-o-potty with no door or toilet paper. I was terrified to urinate, as male guards were patrolling the halls and could walk past at any point. I was disgusted. No one had any right to see me using the toilet, especially not an older man that I didn’t know. There were also cameras above each and every cell, which would have filmed it, too. I instead elected to just hold my bladder. We were wet from the rain, and the building was freezing. I was shaking uncontrollably, and my lips were turning blue. I had officers ask me if I was okay, but when I told them I was cold they said nothing could be done. The floors were disgusting. The food given was simply a bun and cheese; nothing of any nutritional value. They were not substitutes for a meal. The cups of water were tiny white Styrofoam cups. In my whole 24 hours there, I was only offered water 4 times (understand that one is required to drink 8 glasses a day to remain healthy, and that these cups were incredibly small, and not entirely filled). People were yelling and screaming, the noise was unbearable at times. And I was completely alone, the only company being that occasionally, I could scream to my boyfriend (who was also being held) across the room, just to try to ensure that he was okay.
In my whole time there, I did not see a detective, despite constant promises that one would be there soon. Finally, at close to midnight Sunday, I was able to see lawyers. A whole 12 hours after I was brought in (I was arrested at 11:55 a.m. Saturday). When I met with the lawyers, they were outraged and insisted that I should be let go immediately. Instead they were told that I would likely have to go to 2011 Finch for a bail hearing! They were shocked to hear this, insisting that I was being held in there for no good reason. Fortunately, they were able to call my parents, who were worried sick by that point. The lawyers assured me that they had no good reason for holding me, and that what they had done was entirely illegal and unjust. The one lawyer was kind enough to give me her cell number, in case I should be released in the middle of the night. I had no money, no way around the unfamiliar area. Aside from my boyfriend, I was essentially alone.
I was brought back into my lonely cell again, in hysterics. To try and keep warm, I curled into a ball, and sat uncomfortably on the bench. I did not sleep a wink. Occasionally, an officer would bang his hand against the grating of my cage, to make sure that I was still coherent. They made jokes that “I wasn’t much of a talker” and that I “didn’t seem to be enjoying my time there”. I sat alone, trying to remain sane until close to 5 a.m. At that point, I was roused and taken from my cell to a cell with four other girls (although the lawyers insisted that I should not have been kept alone in the first place).
The other girls I met had been treated equally as unfairly (However, I will not explain their stories here). None of them had been there as long as I had, not even close. By this point, the prison had been filling up, and the noise was unbearable. People banged on cages and screamed. My body ached, and this was not helping my head. One girl in my cell, like myself, had not had water for 8 hours. We begged for a drink, only to be told that there was nothing to be done. We begged for sweaters, only to be told that there were none. Eventually we were brought orange shirts which we made into make-shift blankets to try to stave off the cold. None of the other girls in there had been able to place a phone call. They were simply told to be patient and to stop complaining, despite it being a right that should have immediate access to lawyers. A few of the girls had no idea what they were charged with, and had not even been read their rights while they were arrested.
The cell next to us did not have a toilet. Women had to wait for extended periods of time until male officers were able to escort them to a cell that did. Our cell was within plain sight of a cell containing male prisoners. Fortunately, the girls were kind enough to create a kind of human door so that we could use the toilet without fear of being seen. One woman needed clear medical attention (she was moaning and unable to pick herself up off of the floor), and after close to 13 hours, she was finally taken to see a doctor. However, throughout the prison, I could hear others begging for medical attention, their anguished cries going unanswered by the officers. I could only imagine the pain some people were enduring.
During all of this, lude sexual remarks were made towards woman, including one officer who claimed that “there is too much estrogen in here”. A voice drifting across the prison told us that if we took off our shirts, we might be taken seriously. When we did received water, it was poured through the cell, spilling much of it on the floor. There was not enough room for the now 8 of us being held in there, so some of us had to sit on the floor (I was covered in dust and grit).
Finally, almost a full 24 hours later, I was taken out of my cell to be released. I was told I was a “catch and release”. The officers seemed to use hunting terms to refer to us, with other phrases such as “move those bodies”. It felt as if we were not even being looked at as human beings. When I met with a detective, I told I was being released without charge. Not a single charge. I could go wherever I wanted, but if I was found near the protesters and brought back in, I would not be released again. I begged to know the status of my boyfriend, but I was told I was not privy to that information. Even though I tried to explain that I was all alone without him, they said that was not their concern. My photo was taken, and after waiting because the officers were incredibly disorganized and no one seemed to know where my property was, I was brought outside, and sent through the turnstile onto the street.
I was disoriented, and terrified. There were police everywhere. I could not walk well as my shoes had no laces, and I was completely alone. Media followed me at every step, all asking me if I was a young offender, and what I had done. I just wanted to leave the area to ensure my safety. I was followed by a kind reporter from the Toronto Sun. They interviewed me about my experience, and then offered to take me out of the area to a safe place for my parents to pick me up. I still had no idea as to what was happening with my boyfriend. Luckily, I was taken safely to my parents, and finally able to go home.
I am still in shock, and extremely outraged. I did nothing wrong. I did not protest. I did not even leave the train. I am still so confused—I had a gas mask on me, which makes me a threat? Gas masks are not weapons. And I will not accept as fact that I should have to be subject to tear gas if officers should feel that I should be. My safety was my top concern, and as a result I was arrested and detained illegally. As Canadians, we have the right to peaceful assembly, and I will not for a second stand to think that I was in the wrong for trying to protect myself. I am not a violent person, no one I was with was. We had done nothing wrong,; if we had, we’d have been charged. Not one of us was. What happened to me is a clear example of police being granted powers far too great. There were real criminals out there who escaped, where as I was detained without fair reason. I will never understand why.
The holding centre was disgusting. One man in there who I heard speaking about his visit to Guantanamo Bay said that this was infinitely worse. No one who was not there could understand how stressful, how terrifying, how enraging it was to be held in that kind of environment. I am still so shaken up, that I have been having nightmares about my experience. And sadly, my story is just one of many. Too many people were illegally detained just like I was. For all the time and planning, this was the best that could be done? Well, this is unacceptable. A public inquiry is more than necessary. They should not get away with this injustice, and I will not be silenced. I am going to make sure that amends are made for myself, and everyone else who was subject to the injustice.
Below I have included the link to the Sun article that was written about me. I was also in the Toronto Star, and on the Ryan Doyle show on Monday, June 28th, at 9:30. My story seems to have become something of a sensation, as I was arrested for no good reason, nor am I the type to ever pose the threat. I am not a criminal, nothing I did was criminal. All I have learned from this is that as Canadians, we are subjected to having all of our rights violated at any point in time, and that they will be if you even dare to disagree with those who like to think that they maintain complete control over our country and its citizens. This abuse of power is disgusting; every single Canadian should be outraged.
Thank you for collecting and posting our stories. They need to be heard. Things need to change. Now.
Natasha Borris, G2o’s “Billion Dollar Thug”