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Canada rights group calls for inquiry into G-20 security measures

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) [advocacy website] on Tuesday called for an inquiry [press release] into possible civil liberties violations during the Toronto Group of 20 (G-20) summit [official website]. The group released a preliminary report [text, PDF] on security measures, condemning some police conduct during the summit as "disproportionate, arbitrary and excessive." The CCLA also criticized the enactment of a local regulation [O Reg 233/10 text] under the Public Works Protection Act [text], which broadened the scope of police search and seizure powers in certain areas of Toronto during the summit. Under the regulation, anyone present in certain areas of Toronto could be required to identify themselves to police or be subjected to a search. Some legal experts have also indicated that implementation of the regulation may have been a violation [Toronto Star report] of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. They argue that the public was not given enough notice about the regulation and that the primary area of focus for determining constitutionality is whether the public could have reasonably expected to be able to assemble in the areas without being asked for identification. Some legal experts have gone so far as to compare the government's actions leading up to the summit to the government's response to the 1970 October Crisis where civil liberties were temporarily suspended under the War Measures Act [Canadian Encyclopedia backgrounders]. CCLA has called for a review of the Public Works Protection Act, a withdrawal of all charges filed under the act, implementation of a more transparent regulatory process, and the modernization of the Canadian Criminal Code. Amnesty International Canada [advocacy website] has also called for an inquiry [press release] into police operations surrounding the G-20, as well as the impact of the use of the Public Works Protection Act.

Similar concerns over civil liberties violations arose last fall, following the Pittsburgh G-20 summit [JURIST news archive]. In December, the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania (ACLU-PA) [official website] and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy websites] announced they were extending and continuing a lawsuit [JURIST report] against the City of Pittsburgh for allegedly violating the rights of two protest groups during the September summit. According to the amended complaint, Pittsburgh police officers repeatedly violated the First, Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment [text] rights of Seeds of Peace and Three Rivers Climate Convergence (3RCC) [advocacy websites]. The ACLU-PA and CCR originally filed the lawsuit [JURIST report] in September. Both groups claimed that police searched and seized members of the groups and their property and that police retaliated against members for exercising their right to free speech. Seeds of Peace also claimed that police detained their bus without cause, illegally searched and impounded the bus and conducted a warrantless raid on the property on which the bus was being stored. Pittsburgh has also been criticized for its handling of other protesters. The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) [advocacy website] questioned [JURIST report] the methods used by police during protests in the Lawrenceville and Oakland [JURIST reports] sections of Pittsburgh and also noted that individual officers lacked visible identification, frustrating the work of NLG and ACLU legal observers.

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