Exhibition hockey game intended to unite G20 protesters, Toronto police drawing ire of disgruntled activists

An exhibition hockey game that was meant to bring Toronto police and activists together to heal bitterness left behind by the G20 riots is facing opposition from some who call the gesture “insulting.”

The first game in what is hoped to be an annual event will take place Saturday night at Mattamy Athletic Centre — the former Maple Leaf Gardens — between the public safety and emergency management unit of Toronto police and Artists for Civil Liberties.

“This hockey game is absolutely not a good idea and not the way to establish a better relationship between the police and the public,” said Miguel Avila of Toronto Cop Watch, a group that monitors and records police interactions with protesters and is planning to demonstrate at the game. “There is no trust with the police whatsoever.”

Another disgruntled activist, Zach Ruiter, says the hockey game is “really insulting to those dealing with police brutality.”

Dozens of people have logged onto the game’s Facebook event page urging cancellation and calling for protests.

Nathan Lawr, organizer of the game and founder of Artists for Civil Liberties says he is “really bummed” that other activists are opposing the event. “This game was meant to elevate the conversation to something more than ‘f— the cops,’” he said.

“I fully expect counter-demonstrations, and we’re going to put up a link expressly inviting them because that’s the whole idea, all voices are welcome.”

Sukanya Pillay, acting executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which arranged the game, called the friendly competition a new way to foster meaningful dialogue with the police, moving beyond just identifying police abuses and making recommendations.

The association “never shied away from being critical of policing,” she said, but they have to maintain good relationships with police to effect the kind of change the CCLA is seeking.

It’s also not clear whether every police officer supports the match.

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