"Don’t Fence Me In": The G20 PWPA Regulation Applied Only Inside the Security Fence

This is a legal post-mortem following the “anarchy” (if you define anarchy as the absence of the rule of law) and “violence” (if you define violence as property damage) over the weekend during the G20 Summit in Toronto.
 Recall the confidence exuding from every pore of Chief Blair’s resolute and determined face when he advised the public that, yes, indeed, the Order-In-Council regulation passed by Premier Dalton McGuinty’s cabinet to temporarily amend the Ontario Public Works Protection Act granted the G20 Integrated Security Unit “special” police powers if anyone broached the G20 security fence perimeter protecting the G20 leaders while they convened to save the world from global economic crisis.  As cataclysmic events unfolded, The Chief minced no words when he spoke of the legal ramifications if anyone “broke the law” by approaching within 5 metres of the security fence erected around the “Red Zone” in the downtown Toronto core. 
Well, not so fast. It turns out that the PWPA regulation applied only “inside” not “outside” the security fence deemed to be a public work. As CTV Toronto reports:

TORONTO — Toronto’s police chief is admitting there never was a five-metre rule that had people fearing arrest if they strayed too close to the G20 security perimeter.
Civil libertarians were fuming after hearing Friday that the Ontario cabinet gave police the power to stop and search anyone coming within five metres of the G20 fences in Toronto for a one week period.
However, the Ministry of Community Safety says all the cabinet did was update the law that governs entry to such things as court houses to include specific areas inside the G20 fences — not outside.
A ministry spokeswoman says the change was about property, not police powers, and did not include any mention of a zone five metres outside the G20 security perimeter.
When asked today if there actually was a five-metre rule given the ministry’s clarification, Blair smiled and said, “No, but I was trying to keep the criminals out.”

 And now, let’s along sing along to Bing Crosby and The Andrew Sisters’ rendition of “Don’t Fence Me In”:

Perhaps next time, the Ontario provincial Liberal government will consult the Ministry of the Attorney General Office on the legality of legislation it passes and the propriety of informing the public beforehand.

2 Responses to “"Don’t Fence Me In": The G20 PWPA Regulation Applied Only Inside the Security Fence”

  1. Lawrence Gridin Says:

    On my reading, the "public work" zone was defined to include a *few* areas outside the fence. For example, along Bay Street the "public work" zone ran down the middle of the street. The fence, however, was a few feet west of the middle of the street. Therefore, that left a small strip (a few feet wide) outside the fence which was still considered to be within the "public work zone." There are other examples as well.Blair wasn't accurate before, and he still isn't being perfectly accurate now.

  2. The Trial Warrior Says:

    The fundamental problem is that the definition under the PWPA is that a "public work" contemplates landmarks, such as any "railway, canal, highway, bridge, power works…" or a "building". The (now expired) PWPA Regulation referred to a bounded territory or area bounded by a fence that, as you rightly point out, is not seamless. The ambiguity in the Regulation relating to the parameters of the security fence perimeter or "public work zone" is troublesome. What is equally if not more worrisome, in my view, is the fact that neither the Ontario provincial government, which passed the regulation, nor the Chief of Police, who is charged with enforcing the law, understand where the line is drawn. First it's "outside", next it's "inside". This is a red herring. The tactic was to strike fear into the minds of protesters thinking of leading the march towards the G20 security fence. The old" "Show us your papers!" routine. This type of ex post facto rationalization is more than a political embarrassment. It exposes a complete disdain for the principles of representative democracy, civil liberties and freedom of political expression.

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