Watchdog blasts security at Toronto G20 summit

Tue Dec 7, 2010 5:00pm EST
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Special security powers secretly given to Canadian police for last summer's G20 summit in Toronto were probably illegal and unconstitutional, a provincial government watchdog said on Tuesday.

Police conducted hundreds of arbitrary arrests and unreasonable searches under the temporary provincial regulation, which established a security zone around the meeting of world leaders in downtown Toronto in June, Ontario's ombudsman, Andre Marin, said.

"(The regulation) passed to enhance security during the G20 summit should never have been enacted. It was likely unconstitutional," Marin wrote in a blistering 125-page report he titled "Caught in the Act."

Marin blasted Ontario lawmakers for using a World War Two-era law designed to protect public property to give police "wartime powers", and doing it "under the radar" so the public did not know.

"Apart from insiders in the government of Ontario, only members of the Toronto Police Service knew that the rules of the game had changed, and they were the ones holding the deck of 'go directly to jail' cards," Marin wrote.

The regulation, which has since expired, only became public knowledge after hundreds of people had been arrested as police -- many brought in from other areas of Canada -- went after demonstrations outside the fenced-off area where the G20 leaders were meeting.

Community Safety Minister Jim Bradley said the province will follow Marin's suggestion that the law used to grant police the special powers should be reviewed.

"It is clear to me that we should have communicated (the new regulation) much more directly, clearly and promptly," Bradley in a statement that did not address whether the regulation should ever have been approved.

(Writing by Allan Dowd; editing by Rob Wilson)