Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Noose Tightens

G-20 security forces are using WWII era law to extend their 'Papers, please.' mandate to outside the security zone.

Since when do Canadians have to submit to police scrutiny for strolling down the street in broad daylight? We don’t do “Papers, please.” The Charter of Rights and the age-old common law affirm our right to go peacefully about our business without having to identify ourselves to the police, much less submit to searches.

Except in Toronto at the 2010 Group of 20 summit this weekend.

As the Star reported on Friday, York University graduate student and environmental activist Dave Vasey got into potentially serious trouble when he and a friend were exploring the outside perimeter of the chain-link fence that encloses the summit site. Police stopped Vasey and demanded that he identify himself. When he balked they arrested him and held him for hours in a wire cage.

This is outrageous. If it doesn’t infringe his Charter right to “peaceful assembly,” it crowds it needlessly. No one on the outside of the security zone should face such harassment. There aren’t even any signs warning people that they are in a controlled area. But they are, as Vasey discovered to his shock.

Blame Premier Dalton McGuinty, Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair and Ontario’s Public Works Protection Act. This obscure piece of WWII-era legislation exposes people to a $500 fine and/or two months in jail if they are “attempting to enter any public work or any approach thereto” and fail to provide their name and address to a police officer or guard, or submit to a search.

Three weeks ago under the auspices of this act, the McGuinty cabinet quietly passed a regulation at Blair’s request that declares the summit zone and the area five metres beyond to be a “public work.” There was no legislative debate or even a public announcement.

Meanwhile the only major real security breach came from an out of town officer deciding to sample the local amenities and try one of those high class Toronto street hookers he'd heard so much about:
In the other incident, confirmed by security sources but not confirmed by the ISU, an out-of-town officer allegedly hired a street prostitute to accompany him to his hotel room and fell asleep following their encounter. Taking advantage of her situation, she left with some of his luggage, which included his police gear. Police officers tracked her down and recovered the items. She apparently was unaware of what she had, looking for property for financial gain and not security material. It is also not known what information was stored on the computers.
These are the clowns with the power to decide what level of civil rights you have in Toronto right now, depending in some cases on what side of the street you're standing on.

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