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article imageOntario Ombudsman: Province used 'dubious' powers for Toronto G20

By Stephanie Dearing     Dec 8, 2010 in Politics
Toronto - The Province of Ontario's Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services enacted police powers the province's watchdog called 'dubious' and 'likely illegal.'
The Ombudsman made those observations in a press release and during a live press briefing Tuesday when he announced he had finished reviewing the Province's actions leading up to the Toronto G20 summit, hosted by the city in June. Andre Marin, the Ombudsman was scathing in his review, saying "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.”
During his 90 day investigation, Marin found that no one, outside of the Toronto Police and a few select government representatives, knew about the temporary enactment of the Public Works Protection Act, which gave police "extraordinary powers," and violated the rights of protesters said Marin. The ombudsman was particularly troubled by "the Ministry’s decision not to publicize the regulation," which Marin criticized saying the secrecy "entrapped citizens." “By changing the legal landscape without warning, regulation 233/10 operated as a trap for those who relied on their ordinary legal rights.”
Marin found "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." “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.”
Called Caught in the Act, the 127 page report concluded that the emergency powers granted to the police "never should have been enacted." The Act, which was inappropriate to begin with because it was intended to protect infrastructure, says the report, resulted in demeaning Canada's global reputation. "All of this makes for a sorry legacy. The value in hosting international summits is that it permits the host nation to primp and pose before the eyes of the world. Ordinarily Ontario and Canada could proudly showcase the majesty of a free and democratic society. The legacy of the passage and administration of Regulation 233/10 is that we failed to do that well."
Along with using an inappropriate law, and failing to publicize the use of the law, Marin criticized the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services for failing to train the police on the law, thus creating chaos and confusion. The law made it an offense for anyone to refuse to identify themselves, which normally is not the case.
Toronto Police Chief, Bill Blair had requested the Act be revived for the G20 conference in May. A spokesman for Blair said the Chief was being "unfairly singled out" in Marin's report on the G20 security, reported the Toronto Sun. The spokesperson said it wasn't Blair's job to communicate with the public about the special powers granted to the police for the summit.
Marin has called for the obscure Act to be reviewed and revised. He also recommended that the government work on its communications.
Since Marin's report was issued, the Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, has told the press the Province "moved too quickly" and "failed to communicate," reported The Star. But aside from that, the government had good intentions, McGuinty said. “The very premise of our regulation, the law itself, is likely not in keeping with the balance that we would want to strike at the beginning of the 21st century when it comes to public safety and ... freedom of expression.”
Bill Blair is facing increasing pressure to resign after he called one G20 protester Adam Nobody, who had been beaten by police in an attack caught on camera, a violent armed offender. Blair later apologized after the person who had posted the video footage swore an affidavit the the footage had not been tampered with in any way, reported Toronto Life. The Star was able to obtain footage of the incident from another angle, revealing the faces of two police officers.
People are demanding the police officers face disciplinary measures after Nobody received broken facial bones at the hands of the police during the assault. The Special Investigations Unit, which had dropped the investigation earlier, saying it could not proceed in the case due to an inability to identify the officers involved, has said it had reopened the case, and is seeking witnesses photographed at the scene.
Leader of the Ontario Progressive Conservative Party, Tim Hudak has demanded the ruling Liberal party come clean and admit its responsibility for the sweeping powers temporarily granted to the police.
More about Toronto g20, Martial Law, Ontario ombudsman, Ministry community safety correctional, William blair
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