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.