Ontario’s security measures updated…somewhat

By MPP Toby Barrett

If it’s…possible to start a war in a computer room or a stock exchange that will send an enemy country to its doom, then is there non-battlespace anywhere? If [a] young lad setting out with his orders should ask today, “Where is the battlefield?” the answer would be “Everywhere.”
~ Colonel Qiao Liang and Colonel Wang Xiangsui, People’s Liberation Army, China 1999

Nearly three years after the G20 fiasco in Toronto, the Ontario Government has finally passed legislation meant to replace the archaic powers of the Public Works Protection Act.

You may recall the McGuinty/Wynne government was heavily criticized for its secrecy in applying the draconian Public Works Protection Act — enacted in 1939 to protect infrastructure from Nazi sabateurs — just prior to the G20 Summit. As I rose to debate its replacement — Security for Courts, Electricity Generating Facilities and Nuclear Facilities — the government enacted closure.

The new law may come as comfort in Haldimand where there are many security shortcomings at the historical courthouse. A report from 2000 by the Law Society of Upper Canada identified the then 150-year-old building in need of a desperate overhaul. Problems sited include shared space, lack of private entrances for judges and no witness room. Fourteen years after the publication of the report not much has changed – in fact, there have been few changes to the Cayuga courthouse since 1850.

Schedule 2 of the bill amends the Police Services Act and will ensure court security guards have the powers to require all those entering a courthouse to show identification, provide a reason for being there, subject them to a search and, if necessary, allow officers to search the vehicle they arrived in without a warrant.

Schedule 3 of the bill provides for the appointment of security personnel as peace officers and sets out security regulations for electricity generating facilities, the way it was done in 1939. This won’t help Caledonia where the transformer station was torched a few years back, causing $1 million in damage. There’s also the never used, white elephant power towers that march into Caledonia, unfinished, worthless and wireless except to fly warrior flags and blockade roads.

The new bill does not go beyond 1939, and manate security for steel mills, refineries, oil pipelines, natural gas pipelines and water works — and last but certainly not least, our banking/and computer systems, where electronic sabotage could wreak havoc and cause national and perhaps global devastation.

And while the measures in the new bill will protect some public infrastructure from saboteurs, it now does nothing to protect people during events that can get out of control. For example, I recall attending, as a young and naïve country boy, the Rochester race riot site in 1964 with my buddies. I would have been much safer had we been detained by police.

The same could be said of those who were downtown Toronto during the G20. We all saw the breaking of windows, the lighting of fires and then heard the outcry from the 1,000 plus people who were detained over the course of the weekend. However, what were those people doing there? Should they have been there? Were they putting themselves at risk?

I still feel a more encompassing bill would have better advanced this legislation beyond its 1939 roots.