‘Secret’ G20 law to be scrapped

Posted on February 23, 2012 in Governance Policy Context

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TheStar.com – news/canada/politics
Published On Wed Feb 22 2012.   Tanya Talaga and Robert Benzie, Queen’s Park Bureau

The Liberals are replacing the archaic “secret law” police used to place hundreds of people under arrest during the G20 summit in 2010.

The Public Works Protection Act has been shelved in favour of a new bill that would apply only to securing power plants and courthouses, said Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur.

The legislation, introduced Wednesday, was created out of recommendations of former chief justice Roy McMurtry in the wake of the G20 fiasco. It is far narrower in scope than the old law.

“It will be limited because we are following Judge McMurtry’s advice and, according to him, the … Criminal Code covers the rest,” Meilleur said Wednesday.

The bill will allow people to be asked for identification and to be searched when they enter court buildings. It also allows for the use of reasonable force to remove a person where court proceedings are being conducted.

It provides the power to arrest a person committing any of the offences listed in the bill “without warrant and using reasonable force if necessary,” the legislation states. A person convicted of any of the offences can be fined up to $2,000, face imprisonment of up to 60 days, or both.

During the June 2010 Toronto G20 summit, the obscure 1939 Public Works Protection Act, enacted to secure against Nazi saboteurs early in World War II, was used to quietly pass a regulation giving police broad powers of arrest.

That directive was merely supposed to clarify police powers within the secure summit site at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, but people were misled into believing it applied to an area five metres outside the cordoned-off zone.

While only two of the 1,105 arrests made during the G20 related to the act, there was widespread outcry over the so-called secret law.

“This was an occasion for us to review legislation passed in the middle of the Second World War,” said Meilleur, who did not offer an apology for what many civil liberties groups felt was an abuse of power.

Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said the Liberals “lost touch” with the public by using a World War II-era law to round up people during the summit.

“Nobody forced them to bring in the secret law at the G20. Nobody forced their arm,” said Hudak. “It was a major scandal for the province.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the new law is an “admission” of failure on the part of the Liberal government.

“They made a big mistake when they were preparing for the G20 and they’re ignoring the fact that mistake trampled people’s civil rights, civil liberties,” said Horwath.

McMurtry’s 54-page report on the old law noted the “potential for abuse” was “beyond troubling” and said it was a “loaded weapon” that threatened civil liberties.

Under the act, police or private security guards do not have to justify their actions against citizens, he pointed out.

< http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/politics/article/1135110–secret-g20-law-to-be-scrapped >

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