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Confusion around G20 secret fence law probed

TORONTO - The so-called secret law that governed police powers during the G20 summit will be reviewed by former Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry, a move the opposition said was aimed at avoiding a full public inquiry.

TORONTO - The so-called secret law that governed police powers during the G20 summit will be reviewed by former Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry, a move the opposition said was aimed at avoiding a full public inquiry.

McMurtry will review the Public Works Protection Act, a Second World War bill designed to protect buildings like courthouses. Ontario's Liberal government updated the act in June — for the first time ever — in secret, specifically for the G20.

The updated law gave police the power to stop, question and arrest anyone within five meters of the G20 security fences in downtown Toronto. The law applied only inside the security fence, but the government and police allowed people to believe it applied outside the fence as well until the summit was over.

More than 1,100 people were arrested during the summit, but most were released without being charged.

"Heads should roll," said Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak, who suggested McMurtry could wrap up his review with one phone call to Premier Dalton McGuinty.

"All justice McMurtry needs to do is talk to the premier himself (to ask) who put this through cabinet, who made the decision to lie to the public, and who's going to pay the price for that."

The review comes on top of a Toronto Police Services Board investigation into police actions during the G20, another probe by the independent office that reviews police actions, as well as an ombudsman's investigation into the process used to update the law.

"The problem is it's all piecemeal," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

"We called from Day 1 for a full public inquiry and we’re sticking to that. We believe the people of Ontario deserve at least that."

The review by McMurtry will not get to all the details around who decided to update a 70-year-old law in secret, added Horwath.

"The McMurtry initiative falls very short of what we need."

Ontario's outspoken ombudsman, Andre Marin, announced a special 90-day review of the secret law in July to investigate the widespread confusion about police powers during the G20.

"I thought the five-metre distance rule to the fence was a rather unusual new measure adopted by the government until I learned, just as the rest of us, that there was no such rule that was in effect,'' said Marin.

"My antennas were raised when I saw that, and then the complaints started coming in.''

The ombudsman's office has received 164 complaints related to the G20, spokeswoman Linda Williamson said Wednesday, up from 60 when the investigation was first announced.

The review of the Public Works Protection Act will be narrow in scope, but McMurtry can say whatever he wants, said Community Safety Minister Jim Bradley.

"I suspect Mr. McMurtry will comment on whatever he wants to," said Bradley.

Bradley dismissed the idea of a full public inquiry into the G20, saying it was a federal responsibility because the summit was a federal event, a comment Horwath couldn't let go unchallenged.

"It’s not about jurisdictional battles," she said.

"It’s about getting answers for the people."

McMurtry, who was also attorney general under former premier Bill Davis, will meet with police, civil liberties groups and lawyers before making his recommendations to the government by next spring.

 
 
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