a spokesperson for the quebec
attorney general's office admitted to NOW earlier this week that the justice system practically ground to a halt when hundreds of demonstrators were arrested in Quebec City.
By Monday morning, 463 people had been arrested on a variety of federal criminal act and municipal bylaw violations including participating in a riot and obstructing a police officer.
The Quebec AG's office acknowledges that demonstrators were kept in cramped police vans for hours after being arrested -- in many cases wearing clothing that reeked of tear gas. As well, the AG's office admits that many of those arrested were not immediately given access to lawyers and were incarcerated for longer than 24 hours before they were released or allowed to appear before a judge.
"Because there were so many people arrested and not as many lawyers, it took time," says AG spokesperson Anne Couture.
She says the process was also delayed because many demonstrators had to have showers and have their tear-gas-saturated clothes replaced.
By Tuesday morning, 70 people awaiting bail hearings were still being detained at the Orsainville jail about 10 minutes outside Quebec City. In total, 106 demonstrators appeared before a judge and Crown prosecutor via video-conference from inside the jail.
The rest of the demonstrators were released but could be summoned to face charges in the future.
Says Couture, "The Crown prosecutor decided that the person could be released on conditions, and we will issue a summons in a few weeks if there are accusations to be laid against that person."
Asked why the system didn't foresee this many arrests and why it wasn't prepared, Couture says, "We knew (this number of arrests) would be possible. We didn't know we would have to (decontaminate) so many people."
The Table de Convergence, a Quebec coalition of unions, students, women's groups and social service agencies, has objected to the treatment of prisoners, alleging that some were beaten and many were denied water and toilets.
Members of the coalition have put up the funding for five lawyers to assist protestors.
"The five (lawyers) are completely exhausted," says coalition spokesperson Robert Jasmin.
In Toronto, demonstrators turned out in front of 52 Division Monday and Tuesday afternoon to show solidarity with those still being detained in Quebec City.
"We're here to let the police know that we'll be keeping a close eye on them and watching how they treat the protestors," says Pam Frache, campaigns coordinator at the Canadian Federation of Students.
Amnesty International has also publicly expressed concern about "the denial of prompt legal representation" as well as excessive use of tear gas, plastic bullets and a taser gun on protestors.