Friday, June 25, 2010

You know those civil rights you thought you had?

You don't anymore.

Apparently the Ontario Government can take them away by stealth whenever they want. Oh sure, sure it's only for the summit weekend they say. How does that change the reality that this law was enacted without any debate in the legislature, with no public scrutiny and kept secret until last night? Oh right, it doesn't.

"The public has nothing to fear with this legislation and the way the police will use this legislation. It really comes down to a case of common sense and officer discretion." -- Sgt. Tim Burrows of the G8/G20 Integrated Security Unit

Exactly Tim. Officer discretion. That's the problem.

From the Canadian Civil Liberties website:

CCLA has just learned that streets and sidewalks within the perimeter of security zone have been designated under the Public Works Protection Act.  Importantly, this Act gives dire powers to the “guards” of the public work:  power to search without warrants, obligation of visitors to state name and purpose of the visit, power to deny entry. Most of these powers contradict current constitutional safeguards.  The Regulation which was not announced and has appeared on e-laws and will be published in its regular form on July 3rd 2010. One person has already been arrested under the Act, which provides:

A guard or peace officer,
(a) may require any person entering or attempting to enter any public work or any approach thereto to furnish his or her name and address, to identify himself or herself and to state the purpose for which he or she desires to enter the public work, in writing or otherwise;

(b) may search, without warrant, any person entering or attempting to enter a public work or a vehicle in the charge or under the control of any such person or which has recently been or is suspected of having been in the charge or under the control of any such person or in which any such person is a passenger; and

(c) may refuse permission to any person to enter a public work and use such force as is necessary to prevent any such person from so entering.

Every person who neglects or refuses to comply with a request or direction made under this Act by a guard or peace officer, and every person found upon a public work or any approach thereto without lawful authority, the proof whereof lies on him or her, is guilty of an offence and on conviction is liable to a fine of not more than $500 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than two months, or to both.

CCLA is obviously extremely concerned about the implications of this measure and will seek to challenge them.   

WARNING : The new designation changes dramatically the advice that lawyers may have been providing to protesters or the general public if they find themselves at the proximity of the fenced area.  Please consult and write to us if you are concerned about this development.
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