Province of Ontario to scrap secret G20 law

I wrote a series of posts about the G8/G2o Summit and the Public Works Protection Act last year:

UPDATE: Tall Fences Make For Good Sheep [And Some Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing]: The G8/G20 Police State Edition

James Morton on “Public Works Protection Act valid-#G20”: A Reply

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

The Toronto Star reports today:

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.

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.”

A copy of the REPORT OF THE REVIEW OF THE PUBLIC WORKS PROTECTION ACT by The Honourable R. Roy McMurtry, O.C., O.Ont., Q.C. dated April 2011 is available here.

It was a privilege to be a contributing member of the Ontario Bar Association’s Working Group which prepared the Submission to the Honourable R. Roy McMurtry’s Review of the Public Works Protection Act , submitted December 23, 2010 .

Chief Justice McMurtry agreed with the OBA’s position concerning lack of notice regarding O. Reg. 233/10 and its effects prior to and during the G20, noting at p. 47 of the Report:

“In its consultations with me, the OBA similarly stated that the existing nature of court security is necessary and is generally “well tolerated.” At the same time, however, it submits that the security regime should not be “shoehorned” into the PWPA regime and that it would be preferable to provide a legislative framework tailored for the specific security requirements. While the PWPA has been relied upon as support for the exercise of powers by the police in providing court security, the OBA submits that the PWPA’s “single security scheme” which declares something a “public work” is an “awkward, blunt instrument in a world where more specialized tools are necessary.” When warrantless searches are being done on a routine basis, it is advisable to have specific legislation providing peace officers with such power.”

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