The Liberals are replacing the confusing ‘secret law’ police used to place hundreds of people under arrest during the G20 summit in 2010.
The new Public Works Act will be introduced Wednesday in the Legislature, said Community Safety Minister Madeleine Meilleur.
The bill, created out of recommendations of former chief justice Roy McMurtry, will be far narrower in scope, addressing only power plant and court security issues.
“It will be limited because we are following Judge McMurtry’s advice and according to him the … criminal code covers the rest,” Meilleur said Wednesday.
The bill will allow people to be asked for identification and to show their bags when they enter court buildings.
During the June 2010 Toronto G20 summit, the obscure 1939 Public Works Protection Act, enacted to secure against Nazi saboteurs early in World War II, was used to quietly pass a regulation giving police broad powers of arrest.
That directive was merely supposed to clarify police powers within the secure summit site at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, but people were misled into believing it applied to an area five metres outside the cordoned-off zone.
While only two of the 1,105 arrests made during the G20 related to the act, there was widespread outcry over the so-called secret law. “This was an occasion for us to review legislation passed in the middle of the Second World War,” said Meilleur, who did not offer an apology for what many civil liberties groups felt was an abuse of power.
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak said the Liberals “lost touch” with the public by using a World War II-era law to round up people during the summit.
“Nobody forced them to bring in the secret law at the G20. Nobody forced their arm,” said Hudak. “It was a major scandal for the province.”
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the new law is an “admission” of failure on the part of the Liberal government.
“They made a big mistake when they were preparing for the G20 and they’re ignoring the fact that mistake trampled people’s civil rights, civil liberties,” said Horwath.
“This is why we were concerned with the G20 situation in the first place because we didn’t think the law was necessary. If there’s going to be a protest, there’s going to be a protest.”
McMurtry’s 54-page report on the old law noted the “potential for abuse” was “beyond troubling” and said it was a “loaded weapon” that threatened civil liberties.
Under the act, police or private security guards do not have to justify their actions against citizens, he pointed out.
Canada News: 'Secret' G20 law to be scrapped