The Star reports today that the provincial legislature cabinet passed a new law on June 2 without any debate. That wouldn't be such a big deal, except that it won't even be published in The Ontario Gazette until July 2, 2010, after it's revoked on June 28, 2010.
Considering the nature of the regulation, it's worthy of closer scrutiny.
Ontario Regulation 233/10 was made pursuant to ss. 1(c) and 6 of the Public Works Protection Act, and designates the now-infamous fenced-off area in downtown Toronto as a "public work." But it's not just the general area:
Everything described in… the definition of “public work” …is located in the area… including, without limitation and for greater certainty, every sidewalk in that area.
The area also happens to correspond with workplace of the largest concentration of lawyers in Canada. In fact, it's also right next to what's likely the public largest transit hub in Canada as well. But if you're not from Toronto, and haven't been subjected to being herded through narrow gates guarded by dozens of police officers over the past few days, this is what it looks like:
In other words, the sidewalk is all these people have. (For comparison, this is what it normally looks like). The regulation also extends the area for a 5 meter radius out from the line.
By designating the area as a public works, peace officers as defined under the Act, are given expansive powers,
Powers of guard or peace officer
3.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.
Considering how we're talking about the core of downtown Toronto here, it seems just a little draconian.
And what happens if you don't obey?
Refusal to obey guard, etc.
5.(1)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.
Or thrown in a cage.
Standing outside the Eastern Ave. detention centre, Dave Vasey is trembling.
It is about 9 p.m. and he has just spent the past five hours sitting alone in a wire cage, on a metal bench, with few answers…
Vasey said he had been provided with legal information prior to the G20 from the Toronto Community Mobilization Network, an umbrella group supporting thousands of protesters descending on the city.
“But (police) told me there was this bylaw,” he said. “I didn’t know what they were talking about.”
Just so we're clear, I do not participate in protests as a matter of principle. But I do regularly pass through this zone, as do thousands of other Torontonians. I just want my city back.
In the meantime, I'll be leaving my city to avoid what looks like could be a very ugly stand-off between police and protesters who will not know about new police powers and the new ability to detain people summarily in what, until very recently, was the most public of public places. Protesters unaware of the new regulation will likely perceive police action as overly broad and without legal justification, only escalating the conflict.
If the intent of the regulation was to scare the rest of us, well it seems like it worked.