Toronto gets ‘secret’ arrest powers ahead of G20 protests

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Just in time for the big talking shop gathering of the G20 Toronto gets secret arrest powers for its law enforcement agencies.

A government changes a law to allow police to arrest people without probable cause. It does so without any legislative debate. Then it keeps the change a virtual secret, until someone is arrested under those new powers.

Where? Germany in the 1930s? The Soviet Union circa 1950? No; Canada, June 2010.

Civil liberties advocates and political activists are up in arms after it emerged Friday that police in Toronto have been given special powers to arrest anyone near the site of the G20 summit if they fail to identify themselves.

What's more, the government of the province of Ontario, which green-lit the new powers, didn't tell anyone about it until after someone was arrested under the new powers.

Thirty-one-year-old Dave Vasey was arrested near the G20 perimeter security fence in downtown Toronto Thursday afternoon after refusing to identify himself to a police officer.

Only with Vasey's arrest did it emerge that Ontario secretly changed its Public Works Protection Act to allow police officers unprecedented powers of arrest. That law allowed police to arrest people if they fail to identify themselves to a police officer when inside a government building or near a "public works" project. It has now been expanded to include the area around the G20 summit, meaning a significant portion of downtown Toronto.

Toronto Chief of Police Bill Blair, who reportedly requested the arrest powers, denied Friday that it had been done in secret.

I would say though that, considering no one seems to have known about these new powers of police officers and “security guards”, secret would be the right word to use.

Maybe Police Chief Bill Blair (another Blair, yikes) should reread the Oxford dictionary or such reference as to what constitutes “secret” and what is not secret.

The entire set of new powers have not been approved at local, province or federal government level and seems to have simply been introduced rather arbitrarily.

It would appear that legal protest is suddenly becoming illegal the world over, and especially in countries of the so-called free world when hosting economic summits and eco ones.

In the latter case I refer to the actions of the Danish police in Copenhagen at the Climate Summit in December of 2009 where they went with brutal force against peaceful protesters and even delegates from NGOs.

The G8/G20 in London also comes to mind where many of the Metropolitan Police had removed their identification numbers by, it would appear, order of superior officers.

Having myself overheard some conversations of police officers and sergeants together on the way to the events in London it was obvious that the police were wanting a fight. Not something they would admit though.

What we are seeing here at each and every one of those events now, whether in Canada, UK, Denmark or in Germany – in the latter case the Bundeswehr (German Army) was unconstitutionally used as policing force as well – appears to be an incremental attempt to get people used to the police state.

Something that we all must be aware of and fight against.

© 2010