Canada government accountability officer to probe G-20 security measures

[JURIST] Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin [official website] announced Friday that he is launching an investigation [press release] into the enactment of a local regulation [O Reg 233/10 text] that broadened the scope of police search and seizure powers in certain areas of Toronto during the recent Group of 20 (G-20) summit [official website]. The investigation will examine the involvement of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services [official website] in originating the regulation as well as the way information about the regulation was disseminated to the public prior to its enactment. Rights groups and legal scholars have both expressed concern [JURIST report] over possible civil liberties violations during the summit, particularly with regards to the enactment of regulation 233/10, which they contend may have been a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms [text]. Under the regulation, enacted under the Public Works Protection Act [text], anyone present in certain areas of Toronto could be required to identify themselves to police or be subjected to a search. Legal scholars argue that the public was not given enough notice [Toronto Star report] 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. The Ombudsman's office stated it has received 22 complaints regarding G-20 security measures, including allegations that lack of government transparency led to "an atmosphere of secrecy and confusion and contributed to violations of civil liberties." Marin indicated he is taking the complaints seriously stating, "The complaints we've received so far raise serious concerns about this regulation and the way it was communicated, and I think there is a very strong public interest in finding out exactly what happened and how that affected the rest of the events of the G20 weekend." The inquiry is expected to be completed within 90 days.

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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