Published On: The Canadian Charger, January 5th, 2011
The G20 report put out by Ontario’s Ombudsman Andre Marin [PDF] was an embarrassment for Premier Dalton McGuinty. Front and centre of this scandal is the misapplication of the Public Works Protection Act, a little-known wartime piece of legislation.
The PWPA was invoked during the G20 Summit this past June to search and identify (without warrant) anyone within five metres of the “security fence” in downtown Toronto.
“The most massive compromise in civil liberties in Canadian history,” is what Marin called such usage of the PWPA.
Both the RCMP and the OPP declined the opportunity to appear in a joint press conference with Chief Bill Blair of the Toronto Police Service and the TPS, the organization that asked Premier McGuinty for powers under the PWPA.
It has been revealed that an internal email from one OPP officer to another during the G20 Summit stated that TPS “has made many public mistakes over the last 72 hours.” The email went on to say that public did not support “the actions by TPS and the inconsistencies of answers they continue to provide.”
In an interview with Evan Soloman of the CBC News Network, Blair insisted that the PWPA—both secretly invoked and wrongly applied—was requested on behalf of the Integrated Security Unit (ISU), and not by the TPS alone (the ISU includes the RCMP and the OPP).
Moments after this statement, on air, Solomon received a statement from the RCMP rebuking Blair’s assertions. The statement read that the PWPA “was not raised in any operational meetings, and the RCMP did not approve of the use of the Public Works Protection Act—it was a Toronto Police Service decision.”
Claiming that his lawyers recommended he seek broader powers from the province, Blair basically hinted that while putting his signature on the dotted line, he really didn’t know what he was doing.
This then begs the question of why Premier McGuinty deferred to Blair’s request so easily.
Why did the provincial Liberals not assume responsibility when they knew that the PWPA was being falsely applied and corroding the public good?
Why did McGuinty’s Liberals not take action when they knew that the police were misleading the public regarding this piece of legislation?
Contrary to the information disseminated in June 2010, the PWPA did not give police the power to conduct warrantless searches on anyone within five metres of the security fence. It simply declared that the fenced-in area was a type of “public works”. Informed by the OPP that his officers were misapplying the law, why did Blair not set the record strait?
These questions shed light on exactly what happened in downtown Toronto during the summit.
Some say that they constitute enough momentum for a resignation on the part of Blair. Amidst all this, Blair was also forced to retract a statement regarding a video which he claimed was “doctored” of a man being beaten by what looks to be police officers.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU), Ontario’s police watchdog group, also reported that excessive force was “probably” used on at least two occasions during the summit weekend, a conservative estimate, according to Marin.
That a whole lot went wrong during a week of chaos this past June is indisputable. Who should get the axe for it, and if any heads will roll, are the more interesting questions.
Chief Blair and Premier McGuinty, in light of recent evidence, are up first if public opinion and the rule of law matters at all in Ontario.