Toronto

Controversial G20 law to be repealed by Ontario

The Ontario government says it will repeal a decades-old law that it used to give law enforcement officials controversial new powers around the site of the G20 summit site in downtown Toronto last summer.

The Ontario government says it will repeal a decades-old law that it used to give law enforcement officials controversial new powers around the site of the G20 summit site in downtown Toronto last summer.

The move comes after former chief justice Roy McMurtry released a report Thursday criticizing the Ontario government for its secrecy in applying the Public Works Protection Act — enacted in 1939 to protect infrastructure works from wartime enemies — to the area around the G20 summit, which ran June 26-27.

"The Public Works Protection Act raises issues regarding the liberty and security of the person in providing for warrantless searches and stopping for identification," writes McMurtry in the report. "[The] potential for abuse is beyond troubling, to say the least."

McMurtry called the law "vague," and warned that such a law can lead to "inconsistent and arbitrary" enforcement.

The government said Thursday it would accept all of the recommendations made by McMurtry, including one that calls for the act be repealed and replaced with new legislation that protects courts and power generation stations.

The government passed a temporary regulation on June 2 without debate that designated the parts of the area within a large fence encapsulating the G20 summit site a public work. That brought it under the purview of the Public Works Protection Act, which police used as justification for questioning and searching those who were near or outside the security perimeter.

Initially, the public was led to believe by Toronto police Chief Bill Blair that the regulation gave officers the power to demand identification and detain anyone within five metres of the fence.

Blair admitted on June 29 that no such five-metre rule existed, saying he had just been "trying to keep the criminals out."

Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin issued a scathing indictment  of the law in a December report, calling the G20 weekend "the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history."

More than 1,100 people were arrested by the 20,000 police who patrolled Toronto during the G20 weekend.

With files from Canadian Press

now