McGuinty to Scrap the Secret G20 Law (1939 Public Works Protection Act)


Update: see previous posts March 31, 2011 The “G20 Bump” Translates into a 60% Increase of Toronto Police Making the 2010 Sunshine List, March 19, 2011 Harper Screws Toronto’s Businesses, March 18, 2011 New G20 Lawsuits Launched Against Toronto Police Board, December 7, 2010 Ontario Umbudsman André Marin Delivers Report on G20 “Caught in the Act”, August 8, 2010 G20 Litigation, August 1, 2010 Damage$ Flowing from Charter Breaches

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Toronto Police enforced a rule (Five Metre Law) that the public had been misinformed existed, when it did not exist at the G20. Numerous citizens had their Charter rights breached. Hundreds upon hundreds were arrested, detained and then released without any charges being laid – a tactic used to control the public.

Ontario never needed their version of the War Measures Act ten months ago in June, 2010.

When the 1939 Public Works Protection Act was put back into place before the G20, Ontario Provincial Liberal leader, Premier Dalton McGuinty supported it, Toronto Mayor David Miller supported it and of course, Conservative Miniority Leader, Prime Minister Stephen Harper supported it. All levels of government and police viewed the law as a convenient device to have absolute control over the people and a misunderstood tool that could be used to control and manipulate the public and the press. And for the most part, it worked.

Ontario plans to scrap a “troubling” World War II-era law blamed for arrests, confusion and alleged civil rights abuses in policing the G20 summit last June, the Star has learned.

Community Safety and Corrections Minister Jim Bradley will announce the move Thursday after former attorney general and chief justice Roy McMurtry delivers his long-awaited report on the flawed 1939 Public Works Protection Act, a top government source said.

The broad arrest powers creates “potential for abuse (that is) beyond troubling,” McMurtry wrote in his 54-page effort, a copy of which was obtained by the Star.

Abuses of the public’s Charter rights have yet to be scrutinized and realized. The damages will be paid for at a later date and the same taxpayers will be victimized again.

He compared such legislation to a “loaded weapon” for authorities to use at their whim, and noted the public works law was initially passed to protect public works like hydroelectric plants at Niagara Falls from Nazi sabotage.

“The PWPA raises issues regarding the liberty and security of the person in providing for warrantless searches and stopping for identification,” he added, noting police or private guards do not have to justify their actions on citizens, who face fines of up to $500 and two months in jail for disobeying.

“A vague law can lead to inconsistent and arbitrary enforcement … In my view, the PWPA has been used for purposes beyond its intent.”

Bradley ordered the report last September amid repeated calls for the law’s modernization after thousands of protesters took to the streets during the G20, with small bands of vandals torching police cars and smashing store windows.

Police arrested 1,105 people and charged 278. The rest were released or never booked and most charges have been subsequently dropped.

A key issue under the act was the widespread misinterpretation of a “five-metre rule” — quietly rubber-stamped by Premier Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet at the request of Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair — under which authorities fuelled the belief that anyone coming within five metres of the summit security fence snaking through downtown Toronto could be required to provide identification or submit to a search.

Critics say that impression emboldened police and had a chilling effect on the rights of citizens.

In his report, McMurtry also recommends new statutes to provide for broader security powers at courthouses, including searches without warrants, and at nuclear power stations — which now rely on the Public Works Protection Act for authority.

Consultations will begin “immediately” with stakeholders such as civil rights groups and Ontario Power Generation, which owns nuclear plants at Darlington and Pickering, on writing new laws that will “balance” the protection of public works with civil liberties before introducing legislation to repeal the Public Works Protection Act, the source said.

For the G20, “public works” was broadly interpreted as the summit zone, which included the Metro Toronto Convention Centre and Royal York hotel, where world leaders met.

But with the Oct. 6 provincial election approaching, and the Legislature slated to finish its session in early June, it’s unclear if any changes will come into effect before the fall vote.

The five-metre rule proved an embarrassment for both the Liberal government and Blair. The public was left to believe they had to submit to a search or provide identification if they were within five metres of the security zone fence. In fact, the officers could exercise those powers only inside the fence.

That rule was published on the little-known provincial e-Laws website June 16, but was not widely circulated publicly in Toronto police notices, flyers and advertisements about G20 security, said McMurtry.

“I have concerns whether adequate notice was given to the public,” he wrote.

The Star first revealed the rule on June 25, three days before it was to expire and eight days before it was published in the Ontario Gazette as an official notice.

Blair, McGuinty and then-community safety minister Rick Bartolucci, who defended the “extraordinary” powers during the summit, didn’t set the record straight on the five-metre rule until two days after the event ended.

“I was trying to keep the criminals out,” Blair explained at the time.

Bartolucci was shunted to another cabinet portfolio in a subsequent shuffle and replaced by Bradley.

Update: February 28, 2011 – No public inquiry on G20, McGuinty says

Update: February 28, 2011 – Civil rights trampled in police response to G20 protests: Report

Update: March 3, 2011 – Police services review of G20 moves to next phase

Update: March 9, 2011 – SIU reopens G20 case after video emerges

Update: March 16, 2011 – Man accused of lighting police cruiser on fire during G20 protest fires lawyer

Update: March 24, 2011 – Crossbow seized near G20 fence meant to repel break-in, court told

Update: April 1, 2011 – G20 private security firm charged

Update: April 1, 2011 – Police cleared of wrongdoing in G20 injury case

Update: April 28, 2011 – Exclusive: Province to scrap secret G20 law

Update: May 6, 2011 – Jane’s Walk recalls G20 violence in Toronto

Update: May 6, 2011 No apology from McGuinty for G20 secret law

Update: May 11, 2011 – Filmmaker suing province, police over G20 arrest

Update: May 12, 2011 – Montreal man arrested in G20 investigation

Update: May 12, 2011 – Judge acquits G20 ‘jester’ of carrying Molotov cocktails

Update: May 16, 2011 G20 ‘geek’ Byron Sonne granted bail

Update: May 16, 2011 Evidence leaves officers unidentified in G20 takedown

Update: May 26, 2011 – Witness to G20 beating was suspect officer’s roommate, SIU says

Update: May 26, 2011 – Police service probes G20 ‘witness’ officers

Update: May 27, 2011 – DiManno: G20 policing black eye isn’t fading away

Update: May 27, 2011 – The Big Deal: Will a civilian review of G20 allow us to move forward?

Update: June 9, 2011 – Ministers didn’t follow own policies for G8 spending

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