By MPP Toby Barrett
Of late, MPPs of all stripes have been debating a piece of legislation which was crafted in response to the infamous G20 regulation.
You may recall before the G20 Summit in Toronto, the McGuinty government approved draconian measures to be taken without telling anybody. The government at the time was heavily criticized for its secrecy in applying the Public Works Protection Act — enacted in 1939 to protect infrastructure works from wartime enemies.
The process by which laws are interpreted, communicated and executed is the essence of our democracy and that democratic form of governance is the basis of our success as a society. When that process is sabotaged, we see bad results. When that process becomes lawless it gets worse. Credibility is lost and policy fails when a government moves away from democratic processes, justice and the rule of law.
It’s clear government must have been fearful of something during the June 2010 summit. However, during debate of Bill 34 (An Act to repeal the Public Works Protection Act, amend the Police Services Act with respect to court security and enact the security for courts, electricity generating facilities and nuclear facilities), the government failed to apologize for what many civil liberties groups felt was an abuse of power. One government member stated: “We no longer fear saboteurs operating in the dark of night and menacing our power and water treatment plants, our dams; our bridges.”
My response – come to Caledonia where someone torched the Caledonia electrical transfer station, causing $1 million in damage. Someone torched the bridge over the railway tracks, which has not been replaced. Someone was shot with an AK-47, and a group threw a van off the 6th Line overpass onto the Caledonia bypass below, and again torched it.
We are now six years into a credibility crisis in Brant, Haldimand and across Ontario that raises serious questions about the adherence of this provincial government to our democratic processes. One of the most fundamental principles of a free and democratic society is the principle of having one law for all. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again that nobody is beneath the law; nobody is above the law and nobody is beyond the law.
“The law in Ontario should be equally enforced no matter your background,” Opposition Leader Tim Hudak reiterated during a recent visit to Caledonia. “Frontline police officers should have the full support of political leaders to let them properly do their jobs and enforce the rule of law.” Hudak went on to explain that “Caledonia sets a dangerous precedent. We have to make sure this doesn’t happen anywhere else in Ontario.”
With Bill 34 in its infancy, the efficacy of this legislation remains to be seen, however we do know impacts will be seen locally. For instance, it will allow for people to be asked for identification and to be searched when they enter court buildings. As well their vehicles can be searched. It also allows for the use of reasonable force to remove a person where court proceedings are being conducted.
The bottom line is that there is no room in this province for bringing in draconian powers secretly forcing police to wield them on unsuspecting public. My hope is that Bill 34 will help police to enforce the rule of law fairly and openly across Ontario.