John and Sarah Pruyn have never embarked on a cross-Canada bike journey before. In fact, they may never have even contemplated it before.
However, since 2010, the father and daughter have had to think about things they never thought would impact on their lives so much.
Both John and Sarah attended the same labour protest in Toronto on June 26, 2010, during the G20 summit held there that year. They had figured on a peaceful protest and set up in that city’s Queen’s Park, a purported legal protest zone established by authorities. However, that day was when riot police swept the entire area, making mass arrests and sparking debate over police actions, rather than focussing public attention on what was going on among the G20 nations.
“With protests, there’s always the hope that your leaders will listen,” Sarah said.
Instead, both she and her dad were arrested. John, who is missing a leg, said he had his artificial limb torn from him, his walking stick grabbed and because he could not comply with a police order to stand, walk or even hop, he was dragged away and put into a holding area for 28 hours.
“They didn’t give me time to stand,” John said. “I didn’t get up right away, so they attacked me.”
Sarah and a friend who had tried to help her father, were also arrested. She says she was held for 27 hours.
Both would be released without charge. Afterwards, John said he found he’d had a concussion and began suffering from stress related to the incident. He filed a Human Rights complaint, which he won and received a little money and an assurance that police practices would change.
“But it was never about the money,” he said. “I still want a police apology and their acknowledgement that they went over the line.”
To this day John said he does not know who the police officers were who dragged him away and it still bothers him that they may never face repercussions.
That’s why the pair started the G20 Justice Ride — G20Justiceride.wordpress.com — with the goal of riding across Canada, stopping at MP and MLA offices and RCMP headquarters buildings in each province. They started their journey in Sidney in mid-June, visiting the office of MP Elizabeth May.
They want to raise awareness about what happened five years ago and how new legislation like Bill C-51, currently before the House of Commons, could give police more powers with little oversight.
“They’ve got enough power,” he said.
They are also after an inquiry into the disruption of peaceful protests by police with the goal of increasing oversight into officers’ actions.
To this day, John said he still suffers anxiety when he sees a police officer — although he admitted he doesn’t believe individual officers are bad.
“I believe the mindset that allows that kind of thing to go on in groups, is not necessarily in the individual police officers.”
Sarah and John dipped their wheels in the Pacific Ocean in Victoria this week as they start their 110-day journey across Canada. They say they know the journey will be hard but hope to make a point to Canadians and their leaders as well.
“We have a hope, as naive as it may be, to see change with the police,” said Sarah.
The pair will end their journey in St. John’s, Newfoundland.