Toews denies role in G20 police law

Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews denies knowing at the time about Ontario's decision to pass a law giving police more powers during the G20 summit in Toronto.

Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews denies knowing at the time about Ontario's decision to pass a law giving police heightened powers during the G20 summer summit in Toronto.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says the federal government had no involvement in Ontario's passing of law used by police to exercise heightened powers during the G20 summit. ((Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press))
It comes after the province's ombudsman, André Marin, tabled a scathing report this week on security decisions at the G20 that he said lead to the "most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history."

Marin's report also raised questions about the federal role in the security decisions for the G8 and G20 summits in June.

But Toews, the minister responsible for the RCMP, insisted the decision to give police special powers at the summit was a provincial matter that had nothing to do with him or his department.

"You're talking about the regulation that the McGuinty government passed? It was sometime after the G8/G20 event," Toews told reporters Wednesday when asked about when he learned of Ontario's passing changes to the Public Works Protection Act.

"I certainly wasn't aware of the concerns that were being raised with the bill."

That statement contradicts at least one of the findings of Marin, whose report suggests the RCMP and Toews's department did know about the Toronto police request to have the controversial regulation passed.

The ombudsman said the RCMP and, by extension, Toews's department, should have known. Marin added that part of the reason why Toronto police turned to the Ontario government was that federal officials were reluctant to use an existing federal law for security.

Marin's report also chastises the province for keeping the RCMP — which led the integrated security unit — in the dark during the later stages of security planning.

Toews' denial 'ludicrous': Liberal critic

Riot police push against a crowd during a street demonstration on the closing day of the G20 summit in Toronto in late June. ((Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press))
More than 1,000 arrests were made during the G20, but the ombudsman said hundreds or thousands more people were detained without cause.

Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland said the federal government is simply refusing to be accountable.  

"It is absolutely ludicrous they would say they're not responsible for security when they headed the task force that integrated and co-ordinated all security," Holland said Wednesday.

"On the one hand, they led it all. And on the other hand, they say they have no responsiblity."

On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said his government acted with "good intentions" but too much haste when it passed the update to the 1939 law, which was originally passed to protect courthouses and other public buildings after Canada declared war on Germany.

All three opposition parties are now calling for a full public inquiry into summit security, while Holland said attempts by the Commons public safety committee to get to the bottom of the federal role have gone nowhere.  

The G20 summit was originally supposed to have been held in Huntsville, Ont., following the smaller G8 meetings there, but was transferred to Toronto because of logistical issues. Federal security costs reached $675 million.

Toronto and the province are still dealing with fallout from the summit, including a number of investigations over the treatment of protesters and others while it was underway.

With files from the CBC's Louise Elliott and The Canadian Press