[JURIST] A local regulation [O Reg 233/10 text] that broadened the scope of police search and seizure powers in certain areas of Toronto during June’s Group of 20 (G-20) summit [official website] “was of dubious legality and no utility” and resulted in a mass violation of civil rights, according to a report [text, PDF; press release] released Tuesday by the Ombudsman of Ontario [official website], Andre Marin. The regulation was quietly enacted under the 1939 Public Works Protection Act (PWPA) [text] and allowed police to require anyone present in certain areas of Toronto to identify themselves or be subjected to a search. In the report, entitled “Caught in the Act,” Marin concluded that, “Regulation 233/10 … should never have been enacted. It was likely unconstitutional.” In remarks [text, DOC] delivered Tuesday, Marin said:
Reviving this dormant piece of legislation, coupled with the adoption of the regulation, created a legal landscape where people were detained by police and compelled to identify themselves, answer questions and submit to warrantless searches—even if they simply wanted to walk away. Responsible protesters and civil rights groups who took the trouble to educate themselves about their rights prior to the G20 had no way of knowing they were walking into a trap—they were literally caught in the Act; the Public Works Protection Act and its pernicious regulatory offspring.
Marin recommended that the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services [official website] revise and consider replacing the PWPA, which is unique to Ontario, and that it make sure that any similar regulations are clearly communicated to the public in the future.
Marin launched the investigation [JURIST report] in July after his office received 22 complaints regarding security measures during the G-20 summit. It was the first time the Ombudsman used social media in conducting an investigation. In September, two individuals detained during the G-20 filed a class action suit [JURIST report] on behalf of 1,150 individuals detained during the summit. The individuals, Miranda McQuade and Mike Barber, named three defendants in the suit, the Canadian Attorney General, the Toronto Police Services Board and the Regional Municipality of Peel Police Services Board [official websites]. The plaintiffs claim that law enforcement committed numerous intentional torts against those detained between June 25 and June 30. In early July, protesters in Toronto took to the streets and demanded an investigation [JURIST report] into police conduct during the meeting. Soon after the conclusion of the summit, in late June, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association called for an inquiry [JURIST report] into police conduct and treatment of protesters.