Fascist G20 Law Passed in Toronto | A Right Is Not a Right If They Can Take It Away

Linda Nguyen, Postmedia News December 7, 2010 1:24 PM

TORONTO — The decision to quietly invoke a so-called secret law granting police extra powers during last summer’s G20 summit in Ontario was “opportunistic and inappropriate,” according to a scathing report released Tuesday by the provincial ombudsman.


“There is a real and insidious danger associated with using subordinate legislation, passed behind closed doors, to increase police authority, and I believe the practice should be sedulously avoided,” ombudsman Andre Marin wrote in the report, titled Caught in the Act.


Regulation 233/10 was passed in the Ontario legislature on June 2 without debate and immediately made the perimeter fence surrounding the G20 summit site — which hosted leaders from the world’s 20 wealthiest nations — a “public work.”


It allowed police to use the 1939 Public Works Protection Act to enforce security.


It was widely believed during the June 26-27 G20 weekend that those found within five metres of the three-metre high fence had to identify themselves, and if they refused, were subject to search and arrest.


But after the summit was over it was revealed the law only allowed police to search people who were attempting to enter the security perimeter, which stretched 3.5 kilometres around Toronto’s Metro Convention Centre.


The regulation expired on June 28.


“(The government) quietly handed the police extravagant, sweeping powers under a 71-year-old law — powers that would almost certainly be illegal and unconstitutional under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Marin. “Little did they realize that once this powerful weapon was unleashed, it would be almost impossible to control.”


Thousands of protesters took to the streets that weekend, with a small handful wreaking havoc in the city’s downtown core, burning police cars and trashing local businesses resulting in an estimated $2 million in property damage.


More than 1,000 people were arrested during the two-day summit in Toronto, many of which were eventually released without criminal charges being laid.


According to the ombudsman, some members in Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services were “concerned” about the law, resulting in a decision to not publicize or clarify it. The only mention of the law was made in the Ontario Gazette, a legislative newsletter.


“Apart from insiders in the Government of Ontario, only members of the Toronto Police Service knew that the rules of the games had changed, and they were the ones holding the ‘go directly to jail’ cards,” he said.


Marin criticized how those who were caught near the fence, were subject to “warrantless searches” and questioned — even if the police were told they just wanted to walk away.


York University student Dave Vasey was one of two people who was arrested and detained after refusing to provide identification near the fence on June 24.


The ombudsman recommends the government revise or replace the act, particularly regarding the powers it grants to police and the methods in which it was not publicized.


The original purpose of the World War II-era act was to protect people, not infrastructure and ended up triggering “excessive police powers” during the G20 summit, said the report. The ministry has accepted all of the report’s recommendations.


The report took 90 days to complete and was the result of 49 interviews with senior government officials, and citizens who felt their rights were breached during the summit. The Office of the Ombudsman has received 22 official complaints from people alleging there was a lack of transparency and public communication with the regulation.


The federal government had set aside $1 billion for security costs for the G20 and G8 summits, the latter held in Huntsville, Ont., just before the G20.


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