Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
Todd Howe, WeAreChangeToronto
December 8, 2010
Imagine the following. It’s dusk and you’re walking with your best friends down a quiet side street in a major urban centre. You all stop for a moment under the pooled glow of a streetlight — maybe you light a smoke, or send a text. A few minutes later, someone looks up and so you do, too. There on the utility pole above is a cluster of cameras, their dark spherical globes the strange fruit of an uneasy era, and a sign — Warning: This area under surveillance. In that moment, you see your image reflected in the glassy blister as you regard the camera eye. Freeze frame.
What goes through your mind? Do you feel a little uneasy? Do you feel protected? Or do you think nothing of it?
It’s an encounter and a question that an ever-expanding number of Canadians will experience for themselves in the coming months. On November 15th, Toronto police chief Bill Blair announced his intention to ‘buy back’ 52 of the 67 cameras the Federal government had purchased to monitor the June G20 summit (riot gear and LRAD acoustic cannons for crowd control are to be transferred as well in the federally subsidized arrangement). The G20 cameras, installed in May, were to be removed at the end of the summit and indeed came down in July as promised. It will come as no surprise to those following these developments, however, that they are now back on the agenda. For the past number of years, the Toronto Police Services have been building out the CCTV network in the city through a program of ‘pilot project’ installations and rotating trials that amount to nothing more than a shell game.