Police powers expanded for G20

Police forces in charge of security for the G20 in Toronto have been granted special powers for the duration of the summit.

New regulations give police right to search anyone near security fence

Police forces in charge of security at the G20 summit in Toronto have been granted special powers for the duration of the summit.

The new powers took effect Monday and apply along the border of the G20 security fence that encircles a portion of the downtown core. This area — the so-called red zone — includes the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, where delegates will meet. The new regulations effectively expand the jurisdiction of the existing Public Works Act to apply to high-security areas of the summit site.

Under the new regulations, anyone who comes within five metres of the security area is obliged to give police their name and state the purpose of their visit on request. Anyone who fails to provide identification or explain why they are near the security zone can be searched and arrested. 

The new powers are designed specifically for the G20, CBC's Colin Butler reported Friday.

Ontario's cabinet quietly passed the new rules on June 2 without legislature debate.

Civil liberties groups are concerned about the new regulations, but Toronto police Chief Bill Blair defended the move to add the new powers and denied there was any attempt to deceive the public about how or when they were enacted.

"It was not a secret," Blair told CBC News on Friday. "It was passed in exactly the procedure as described in our legislation in Ontario.

"It was published by the province ... if you go and Google 'Public Works Act Ontario' it's the second thing that comes up. The first will be the act itself."

Lawyer Howard Morton said the new rules go too far and were brought into effect without proper notice.

Protester Dave Vasey, one of Morton's clients, was arrested Thursday after he failed to produce identification. Morton said his client — who was not aware of the new rules — was held for five hours at a special detention facility on Eastern Avenue.

"To simply pass it by cabinet as a regulation is undemocratic," said Morton. "They didn't tell anybody about it."

Sgt. Tim Burrows of the G8/G20 Integrated Security Unit said the new regulations are needed to ensure security of the G20 delegates.

"The public has nothing to fear with this legislation and the way the police will use this legislation," said Burrows. "It really comes down to a case of common sense and officer discretion. If you're approaching that fence line, we want to know why."

Burrows said that police, at their discretion, can deny access to the area and "use whatever force is necessary" to keep people out.

Anyone who refuses to identify themselves or refuses to provide a reason for their visit can be fined up to $500 and face up to two months in jail.

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The regulation also says that if someone has a dispute with an officer and it goes to court "the police officer's statement under oath is considered conclusive evidence under the act."

The new regulations remain in effect through Monday, when the G20 delegates leave town.

Burrows said police have already made "two or three" arrests under the new rules as of Friday morning.

"We're bound by duty to protect the people that are going be within that fence line," said Burrows. "If you refuse to tell us [why you're there], then we have to assume that your purposes are not of a peaceful nature."