Ontario Government to Review “Secret G20 Law”

The government of Ontario announced today that it has appointed former Chief Justice of Ontario, Roy McMurtry, to review the Public Works Protection Act. That is the so-called “secret G20 law” that purported to give police the authority during the G20 summit to search anyone coming within 5 metres of the large fence surrounding the summit in downtown Toronto.

The government’s announcement explains that Mr. McMurtry plans to make a report by the Spring of 2011.

Given that it is a short, six-section Act that is over seventy years old, the review should hopefully not be very complicated. As described in a number of posts on Slaw regarding the Act, including one by Omar Ha-Redeye called “The Secret G20 Law Nobody Heard About” and one I wrote called “What is the Public Works Protection Act Anyway?“, the Act allows government to designate a huge variety of different places a “public work,” including a catch-all category that includes any “other building, place or work designated a public work.” Once this has been done, it allows a police officer to demand identification from or search any person entering or attempting to enter that place.

My prediction? There will be a finding that some aspects of the law have merit, while others are clearly contrary to the Charter. For example, I can see how it makes sense to give police the ability to demand identification from people trying to enter nuclear power plants, or to search people wanting to enter a courthouse. But the sheer breadth of other parts of the Act, with no traditional judicial safeguards in place, make it very unlikely to survive Charter scrutiny.


  1. The McMurtry review is just one of several currently underway.
    The National Post lists the others:

    Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin is investigating the provincial government’s introduction of the new regulation that gave police expanded powers in the security area before the summit.

    The Toronto Police Services Board, a civilian agency who oversees the police force, is conducting an independent review of police actions during the summit.

    The Toronto Police Service’s Summit Management After Action Review Team (SMAART) is reviewing all G20 police methods and best practices.

    The Office of the Independent Police Review Director is examining the systemic issues related to allegations of unlawful searches, unlawful arrests, improper detention and issues related to the temporary holding facility during the G20.

    If the public pays close enough attention to these inquiries and demand some scrutiny of the G20 we may yet see the accountability that Connie has mentioned previously.