The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is appearing before the Ontario legislature’s Standing Committee on Justice Policy to make submissions on Bill 34, the Security for Courts, Electricity Generating Facilities and Nuclear Facilities Act. The Bill contains the long-awaited repeal of the Public Works Protection Act and CCLA applauds the government’s commitment to passing targeted legislation that specifically addresses the identified security needs of court houses and power generation facilities.
The Association, however, continues to have concerns regarding Bill 34’s courthouse security provisions. The open court principle is essential to the maintenance of a fair and functional justice system and must be a central consideration when planning courthouse security. Moreover, the conferral and exercise of police powers, including the right to demand information or search a person or place, engages s. 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and must be fully justified with reference to context-specific security needs. Security measures must also provide reasonable accommodations to disparately impacted minorities in order to comply with other Charter guarantees such as freedom of religion. The powers provided for in Bill 34, which include the ability to demand identification, search vehicles, and make inquiries of individuals entering or inside courthouses to determine if they are ‘security threats’, are neither reasonable nor justifiable.
An examination of the legislative framework governing court security in other Canadian jurisdictions shows that the powers proposed in Bill 34 drastically exceed what other provinces and territories have considered necessary. These examples should be carefully studied, as each provides a model of significantly more tailored approach to this issue.
CCLA will appear before the Committee to strongly urge amendments to amend Bill 34 that would provide tightly constrained powers that are responsive to the demonstrated, everyday security needs of courthouses. Specifically, the Committee should:
- Completely strike the power to demand general information, identification and search vehicles.
- Authorize personal searches only for the purpose of enforcing a prohibition on weapons in the courthouse.
- Restrict the exercise of any random search power so it applies only upon entry into a courthouse.
- Specifically prescribe the manner in which these general, suspicionless searches may take place to ensure they are not overly intrusive and are truly random.
- Require an officer have reasonable grounds to believe an individual has a weapon before demanding that individuals already on court premises return to the entrance to be re-screened.
- Incorporate measures allowing judges, security officials and any other appropriate authorities to reasonably accommodate individuals or groups by issuing exemptions from general security requirements.
To read CCLA’s full brief click here.