Ontario Umbudsman André Marin Delivers Report on G20 “Caught in the Act”

Update: see previous related post – August 8, 2010 – G20 Litigation

How it all started:

TORONTO (Friday, July 9, 2010) – Ontario Ombudsman André Marin today announced he is launching an investigation into the origin and subsequent communication of the controversial security regulation passed by the province prior to the June 26-27 G20 summit.

The investigation, to be conducted by the Special Ombudsman Response Team (SORT), will examine the involvement of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services in the origin of Regulation 233/10, made last month under the Public Works Protection Act to apply to parts of downtown Toronto near the summit meeting site – and the subsequent communication about it to stakeholders, including police, media and the public.

The Ombudsman’s office has received 22 complaints relating to the G20, including several alleging that a lack of transparency and public communication about the regulation led to an atmosphere of secrecy and confusion and contributed to violations of civil liberties. “The complaints we’ve received so far raise serious concerns about this regulation and the way it was communicated, and I think there is a very strong public interest in finding out exactly what happened and how that affected the rest of the events of the G20 weekend,” Mr. Marin said.

The investigation is expected to be completed within 90 days, Mr. Marin said. Anyone who has a complaint or relevant information is asked to call 1-800-263-1830 during business hours or complete an online complaint form at www.ombudsman.on.ca.

Ombudsman releases findings of G20 investigation in a Report “Caught in the Act” and finds that Citizens were unfairly trapped by secret expansion of police powers.

TORONTO (December 7, 2010) – The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services quietly promoted the use of a likely illegal regulation to grant police “extravagant” powers on the eve of the G20 summit, Ontario Ombudsman André Marin says in his latest report, released today.

The controversial measure – Regulation 233/10 under the 71-year-old Public Works Protection Act (PWPA) – “was of dubious legality and no utility” and resulted in a mass violation of civil rights, Mr. Marin says in Caught in the Act(127 page report). The Toronto Police Service, which had requested the regulation because it was responsible for policing the areas around the security fence in downtown Toronto, compounded matters through its miscommunication about the reach of the regulation’s extraordinary powers, he said.

The Ombudsman found the Ministry, which had decided not to publicize the new legal measure, was “caught short” when Toronto Police misapprehended the regulation’s reach and used the authority of the PWPA to arrest or detain people who were simply in the vicinity of the security fence. Throughout the weekend of the G20 summit, police exercised their powers under the Act well beyond the limits of the security perimeter, even after the misinterpretation had been corrected.

It was “opportunistic and inappropriate” to use the PWPA – a “war measure” that allows “extravagant police authority” to arrest and search people in the name of protecting public works – for this purpose, Mr. Marin said. “Here in 2010 is the province of Ontario conferring wartime powers on police officers in peacetime. That is a decision that should not have been taken lightly or kept shrouded in secrecy, particularly not in the era of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Going into the weekend of the G20 summit, no one knew about the regulation – not the public, not the press, city administrators or even key members of the Integrated Security Unit (ISU) in charge of management and co-ordination of summit security, the Ombudsman’s investigation found.

Worse, the Ministry’s decision not to publicize the regulation entrapped citizens who took the trouble to inform themselves of their rights and wound up “caught in the Act’s all but invisible web,” Mr. Marin said. “By changing the legal landscape without warning, regulation 233/10 operated as a trap for those who relied on their ordinary legal rights.”

The Ministry also failed to ensure that police were adequately trained on the regulation, which contributed in part to the “chaos and confusion” on city streets during the summit, he said. “The Ministry simply handed over to the Toronto Police inordinate powers, without any efforts made to ensure those powers would not be misunderstood.”

Ordinary citizens were shocked to discover that police had the power to detain and search even people who did not try to breach the fence or who declined to produce ID and tried to walk away, he noted. “Apart from insiders in the government of Ontario, only members of the Toronto Police Service knew that the rules of the game had changed, and they were the ones holding the ‘go directly to jail’ cards.”

The Ombudsman’s investigation was conducted by the Special Ombudsman Response Team (SORT) and involved 49 interviews with senior government officials and numerous stakeholders, including several of the 167 complainants who came forward. The team also reviewed hundreds of pages of internal government documents and emails and, for the first time, a wealth of evidence obtained via social media such as YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Mr. Marin recommended the Public Works Protection Act be revised or replaced, and that the Ministry examine whether any of the sweeping police powers it confers should be included in any new version, particularly whether it is appropriate to give police the authority to arrest those who have already been excluded entry to secured areas. He also said the Ministry should develop a protocol calling for public information campaigns whenever police powers are modified by subordinate legislation.

The Ministry has accepted all the recommendations and agreed to report back to the Ombudsman on its progress in implementing them. The Minister’s response, included in the report, notes that the enactment of the regulation could have been better handled and that in future it will take greater care to ensure the public is informed.

Note: The Ombudsman’s news conference will be webcast live at 1 p.m. and archived at www.ombudsman.on.ca . It will be posted later at www.YouTube.com/OntarioOmbudsman.

Ontario Ombudsman André Marin stated “In their haste to bump up G20 security, Ontario authorities kept silent on a convoluted amendment to 71-year-old legislation that was “illegal” and “likely unconstitutional,” abrogating the Charter rights of thousands of people in the process,”.

YouTube video where Ontario Ombudsman André Marin speaks to the findings of his investigation regarding the G20 in Toronto:

Update: December 18, 2010 – G20 case studies: 400 official complaints, little satisfaction

Update: December 18, 2010 – G20 Case Studies: How complaints are handled

Update: December 19, 2010 – Reining in the Unaccountable Toronto Police Chief, Bill Blair

Update: December 20, 2010 – Ontario Premier, Dalton McGuinty, does get it on G20

Update: December 20, 2010 – Conspiracy charges dropped against G20 protester

Update: December 20, 2010 – G20 spurred officer to make weapons arrest, trial hears

Update: December 21, 2010 – Police officer charged in G20 beating

Toronto Police Constable Babak “Bobby” or “Bob” Andalib-Goortani was charged Tuesday morning with assault with a weapon. He is scheduled to appear in court on January 24, 2011.

Update: December 21, 2010 – DiManno: Public take a bow on G20 police charges

Update: December 22, 2010 – G20 protests: Don’t let charge be end of story

Update: December 22, 2010 – G20 Toronto Police Officer, Constable Babak “Bobby” or “Bob” Andalib-Goortani, tight-lipped at SIU appearance

Update: December 23, 2010 – Accused G20 officer went on humanitarian mission

Update: December 24, 2010 – Keep up the pressure, readers urge

Update: December 24, 2010 – The City of Toronto: Touted as an event to put Toronto on the geopolitical map, the G20 summit proved a nightmare. A secret 5-metre rule appeared to give police sweeping powers. The Black Bloc ran amok. The city appeared briefly to have become a police state, with “kettling” of protestors and the largest mass arrests in Canadian history — all during a heated mayoral campaign that divided the city. With a cop recently charged with assaulting a demonstrator, this story is far from over.

Update: December 27, 2010 – Photos: The Star’s picks from the G20

Update: January 7, 2011 – SIU report on plainclothes officers in Nobody case to be released

Update: January 7, 2011 – Judge orders police, SIU to hand over Adam Nobody records

Update: January 12, 2011 – G20 Take Victim Down

Update: January 14, 2011 – SIU reopens G20 case after photos surface

Update: January 24, 2011 – Hearing for Toronto police Constable Babak Andalib-Goortani officer charged in G20 assault postponed to February 28, 2011, by request of his publicly paid for defence lawyer, Harry Black

Update: January 26, 2011 –G20 charges dropped against visual artist

Update: January 27, 2011 – SIU reopens third G20 case

Update: February 2, 2011 – Toronto police Constable Babak Andalib-Goortani officer charged in second G20 assault, eight (8) months after the G20 concludes

Update: February 2, 2011 – DiManno: Charged G20 officer stands alone

Update: February 2, 2011 – Publicly paid lawyer for G20 police defendant, Harry Black, opposes release of Adam Nobody notes

Update: February 5, 2011 – G20 abuse: What about the others?

Update: February 13, 2011 – Police response ‘scummy’, lawyer says over G20 investigation

Update: February 27, 2011 – Report slams ‘shocking’ abuses at G20 summit

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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