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'Just watch them': Harper and McGuinty's G20 tag team against civil liberties

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The Toronto Star reports today on the McGuinty government's secret move to curtail civil liberties through the end of the G8/G20 this weekend. Together with Stephen Harper, McGuinty has helped to create a Fortress Toronto that has some comparing the suspension of democratic rights to the War Measures Act imposed by Trudeau's Liberal government in October 1970.

When a CBC reporter asked Trudeau at the time how far he would go in suspending civil liberties to "maintain order," the Prime Minister responded, "Well, just watch me."

Here are a number of the key points from the Star article about McGuinty's granting of extraordinary police powers:

"The province has secretly passed an unprecedented regulation that empowers police to arrest anyone near the G20 security zone who refuses to identify themselves or agree to a police search...

The regulation was made under Ontario’s Public Works Protection Act and was not debated in the Legislature. According to a provincial spokesperson, the cabinet action came in response to an 'extraordinary request' by Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who wanted additional policing powers shortly after learning the G20 was coming to Toronto.

The regulation kicked in Monday and will expire June 28, the day after the summit ends. While the new regulation appeared without notice on the province’s e-Laws online database last week, it won’t be officially published in The Ontario Gazette until July 3 — one week after the regulation expires...

'It’s just unbelievable you would have this kind of abuse of power where the cabinet can create this offence without having it debated in the Legislature,' said Howard Morton, the lawyer representing Dave Vasey, who was arrested Thursday under the sweeping new police powers.

'It was just done surreptitiously, like a mushroom growing under a rock at night.'

According to the new regulation, 'guards' appointed under the act can arrest anyone who, in specific areas, comes within five metres of the security zone.

Within those areas, police can demand identification from anyone coming within five metres of the fence perimeter and search them. If they refuse, they face arrest. Anyone convicted under the regulation could also face up to two months in jail or a $500 maximum fine.

'It reminds me a little bit of the War Measures Act,' said lawyer Nathalie Des Rosiers of the new regulation. Des Rosiers is a lawyer with the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, which has been working to monitor arrests during the summit. 'This is highly unusual to have this declaration done by order-in-council without many people knowing about it.'

Des Rosiers learned of the regulation Thursday afternoon, shortly after Vasey was arrested while standing near the security fence."

Thus far, most of the political heat for the over-the-top 'security' and police presence in Toronto has been aimed at the Harper government. Now, McGuinty's Ontario Liberals deserve to face the wrath of everyone who is concerned about free speech and democratic rights. Even Conservatice MPPs have come out swinging -- at least against the fact that this was passed by an order in council.

Conservative MPP Garfield Dunlop told the Ottawa Citizen:

"This is a disgrace. We were sitting in the legislature when this happened… We had lots of time to debate this stuff.'"

This is a 'just watch me' moment for both Harper and McGuinty. The response required is a massive public show of opposition to the G20 this weekend in Toronto.

Note: The Movement Defence Committee has more information about increased police powers near the security zone here.

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