Looking Back, Moving Forward: Two Months After the G20

Two months after the end of the G20 Summit in Toronto, it is appropriate to reflect on what has happened at the G20: what is known, what is still unclear, and take note of the processes that are unfolding to provide answers. It is paramount that answers be provided: too many people saw their rights violated during the G20 for it to fade away without accountability.

Two months later, what has happened? This new report describes the processes that have begun to shed light on what went wrong at the G20, provides analysis on key criminal, civil and other legal dimensions, and outlines the actions that continue to be necessary to ensure that what occurred during  the G20 does not repeat itself at the next mass public event.

This bulletin is divided into four  parts. First, we briefly summarize what happened during the G20. Second, we outline the different accountability processes that have been called to investigate the events of the G20, and the gaps that remain.  Third, our team of lawyers provide analysis on some key legal aspects of the G20. Finally, we outline some our findings and recommendations. For a more complete list of CCLA correspondence with elected officials regarding G20 governance and policing, click here.

Canadians deserve answers for what happened during the G20 summit, and I invite you to sign our petition. We have thus far collected a little over 4,000 signatures, and we’re hoping to send it to the Prime Minister before parliamentary sessions resume in the fall.

As always, we welcome comments and reactions to this report.


Nathalie Des Rosiers – General Counsel

  1. What Happened During the G20?
  2. Accountability Processes
    1. Inside the Courts (video)
      1. Seeking Damages through Class Action Lawsuits
    2. Outside the Courts (video)
      1. All Roads Lead To Ottawa: The Need for a Federal Inquiry
  3. Shedding Light on Key Legal Dimensions
    1. Understanding Freedom of Assembly: The Maligned Freedom
    2. Understanding Freedom of Expression: From Policing Dissent to Judging Dissent: G20 Bails
    3. Allen Ward v. British Columbia: An Important Precedent from the Supreme Court on Damages Awarded for Breach Of Charter Rights
  4. CCLA Findings & Recommendations
    1. “Breach of the Peace”: A Preliminary Report of Observations During the 2010 G20 Summit
    2. In Brief

  • What Happened During the G20?

The preparation for the G20 was accompanied by massive security investments under the direction of the ISU (Integrated Security Unit), which was led by the RCMP and involved the OPP, the Toronto Police Service and the Canadian Forces. Additional police forces from different cities around the country also participated in the policing of the event.  At present, the Toronto Police Service refuses to disclose which police forces were invited, their respective assignments and where they were deployed[1].

Several civil society groups were approached by representatives of the ISU prior to the Summit. Some groups were likely infiltrated as records of their private meetings are now being used in criminal proceedings against them.  Little is known as to the scope and depth of  the infiltration and the limits, if any, that were put on the police officers and/or CSIS agents that acted in this capacity[2].

Sometime prior to the G20 Summit, it appears that Chief of Police William Blair directly approached the government of Ontario to ‘clarify’ the powers of police officers during the Summit[3].  A regulation designating an area within the G20 perimeter of the fence as a ‘public work’ pursuant to the Public Works Protection Act — legislation first enacted during the Second World War in 1939 — was passed by the Ontario cabinet on June 2. It was published on e-Laws on June 16 without any public announcement. On Thursday, June 24, a citizen was arrested in downtown Toronto pursuant to the Public Works Protection Act, eight days after the regulation came into effect. Countless other people were searched and asked for their identification while they were circulating outside of the perimeter of the fence and prior to leaders arriving in Toronto. Not knowing that the Public Works Protection Act required identification, many disputed the authority of police officers to stop them for no reason and ask for identification: police officers claimed authority under the Public Works Protection Act.  In CCLA’s view, Ontarians are entitled to have clear notice when police powers are expanded and should have been consulted on the appropriateness of such expansion.

The fence was erected. People living and working within the area inside the fence were subject to routine searches. Throughout the week prior to the summit, several peaceful demonstrations were held but an exceedingly large police presence was felt throughout the City.

On Saturday afternoon, during the largest march of  over 25,000 people, a group of protesters left the protest and proceeded in the opposite direction to inflict property damage: store windows were smashed and police cars were torched.  For some reason, no police force came to stop the vandalism which continued on Queen, Yonge and College streets.

From that point on, our monitors observed a much more severe degree of Charter violations:  at around 5 pm, police dispersed a crowd sitting at the designated ‘free speech zone’ (Queen’s Park) using rubber bullets and tear gas and people were grabbed from the crowd.  Several people were injured, among them, a disabled man with an artificial leg who was waiting for his daughter.

Later that night, peaceful protests were again violently dispersed, and there were two instances of mass arrests where people were boxed in by police and unable to leave.  Two CCLA monitors were arrested on Saturday night. CCLA was unable to contact them for more then 16 hours. They witnessed the disorganization of the Detention Centre.

Early Sunday morning, a large group of people from Québec  were woken up as they were sleeping in a dorm and were all arrested.  One of our monitors observed police jumping on a cyclist who asked in French what was going on. He was released immediately as it became clear that he was a tourist visiting from France. Speaking French appeared to be a determining factor in his being forcefully taken off his bike.

Throughout Sunday, peaceful protests throughout the City were disrupted, many people were arrested for no reason. Many videos show abusive behaviors from police officers.

Finally, on Sunday night, again, the last mass arrest took place as people gathered at Spadina and Queen and passers-by were cornered. People were left in the torrential rain, surrounded by police officers, hands tied. Many incidents of abusive conduct were reported.  People were put in paddy wagons and most would be released hours later, without any charges being laid, at distant corners of the city.

With over 1,100 arrests – the largest mass-arrest in Canadian history — policing at the G20 requires answers.  Media, human rights monitors, protestors and passers-by were scooped up off the streets. Detained people were not allowed to speak to a lawyer or to their families.  Arbitrary searches occurred in countless locations across the city, in many instances several kilometers from the G20 summit site.  Peaceful protests were violently dispersed and force was used.  In an effort to locate and disable the ‘Black Bloc’, the police disregarded the constitutional rights of thousands.

[1] Email correspondence to CCLA from the Toronto Police Service

[2] CCLA has asked the federal Minister of Public Safety, Hon. Vic Toews, to provide information as to the extent of this involvement.

[3] Letter from Ontario Solicitor General, Hon Rick Bartolucci, to CCLA dated July 29, 2010.

  • Accountability Processes
  • Inside the Courts

  • Seeking Damages Through Class Action Lawsuits

A class action lawsuit has been started against the Toronto Polices Services Board (TPSB) and the Attorney General of Canada (AGC) on behalf of all of those who were arrested and/or detained June 26 and 27, 2010 but were later released without charge.  The lawyers involved in the lawsuit are Murray Klippenstein and Eric Gillespie, and the proposed representative plaintiff is Sherry Good.  Ms. Good was involved in some protests on June 26 and 27, and was detained on the evening of June 27 at Queen and Spadina.  If you are interested in getting more information about this class action, reading the Notice of Action (the document initiating the lawsuit) or seeing how you can get involved, visit www.g20classaction.ca.

The CCLA has learned that a second G20 class action lawsuit will be initiated in the coming days by lawyer David Midanik.  The defendants will be the TPSB, the AGC and the Regional Municipality of Peel Police Services Board.  Other defendants will be added at a later date, including the OPP.  The class will include all those arrested or detained on June 26 or 27; all those held at the Eastern Avenue Detention Centre between June 25 and 30 and individuals or businesses whose property was vandalized on June 26 or 27.  This class action will include individuals who were charged criminally during the G20.  For more information, visit www.g20defence.ca – this page will be updated in the next few days once the action has been started.

Before either of the class actions move forward, the court will have to decide whether or not to certify the class.  The process of having the class certified can be lengthy and may include appeals.  If the class is certified the defendants must file a Statement of Defence and then there may be a trial on the merits of the action or the case may settle without a trial.  It is likely that this process may take several years as well.

  • Outside the Courts

  • All Roads Lead To Ottawa: The Need for a Federal Inquiry

Since the sweeping police powers and mass arrests that accompanied the G20 Summit, some local reviews or investigations have been established to examine what happened. But these reviews are fragmented and each is very limited in scope.

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), for example, is reviewing the conduct of Ontario-based police during the Summit. This mandate, however, means it cannot examine the conduct of the 5000 RCMP officers and many CSIS agents deployed during the G8/G20 summits.  Likewise, the Ontario Ombudsman is examining the process and consultation (or lack thereof) that led to the granting of sweeping police powers under the Public Works Protection Act. But the Ombudsman cannot examine the wisdom of granting those powers nor can he examine the authority granted police officers under federal law.

What is needed is a comprehensive review that can examine the decisions and policies of all of the actors involved in the G20. The G20 was a federal summit, hosted by the federal government, policed by a federal security agency and paid for by federal funds. The federal government is therefore best suited to coordinate such an inquiry, and provide the answers to the disturbing questions about civil liberties violations that resulted from the summit. Some of the issues for which the federal government should provide accountability include the necessity of the $930-million security budget for the G8/G20 Summits, and the infiltration of democratic protest groups by the RCMP and CSIS. Most importantly, only the federal government can decide if, and how much, financial compensation to award those whose civil liberties were violated during Summit.

The CCLA has publicly called and lobbied for a federal independent inquiry. The issue will likely arise again when the House of Commons sits for the first time since the G20 Summit on September 20.

  • Shedding Light on Key Legal Dimensions
  • Understanding Freedom of Assembly: The Maligned Freedom

“That’s what you get for protesting”, is what a police officer is alleged to have said as she tied the hands of a protester and pushed her into the paddy wagon for a 20 hour detention.  As though people should be jailed for exercising their constitutional right to protest and to peacefully assemble to express one’s opinion.  Similar comments were made on talk shows across Canada. As we mark the two month anniversary of the G20 Summit, we are still left to ponder why over 1,100 people were arrested, why police charged peaceful protesters and rounded them up to send them to detention centres. On hot lines, some people suggest that protesters should have stayed home if they were afraid to be arrested.

This demonstrates a profound misunderstanding and disrespect for the freedom of peaceful assembly.  How did we come to have this portrait of the protester as, at best, an irrelevant trouble-maker or at worst a dangerous terrorist? When did we begin to think that protesting was an extreme sport likely to end up, hands tied, in a jail for close to 24 hours?

Certainly, the $1 billion+ security budget needed a poster image of protesters as no-gooders, there to destroy the city.  The inflammatory language, the ramping up of a rhetoric of danger, and the display of larger and larger numbers of riot-clad police officers omnipresent in the city seemed to give the impression that all Torontonians were at risk!

However, freedom of peaceful assembly is as important as the right to vote in a democracy. It should be treated with the same respect. Democracy is governance for the people by the people and politicians are expected to hear, consult, and engage with the people in between elections to govern effectively.  But access to politicians is unequally distributed: rich people have their lobbyists and poor people have their feet.  Marching in favour of or against a proposed policy is often the only way to be heard for people whose op-ed will not be published in the Toronto Star and whom the Minister will not meet at a cocktail party or a fundraising event.

An engaged citizenry, a citizenry that cares about politics, about the plight of poor people, of Aboriginal people, of students’ access to education, or any other cause is not to be despised, but valued. The day that the 20 most powerful leaders in the world come to town and that no one cares enough to present their cause or the cause of others, is the day that democratic life is finished.  We should worry about that the next time we accept that peaceful protesters are punished because they wanted to be heard.

  • Understanding Freedom of Expression: From Policing Dissent to Judging Dissent

The G20 summit dealt a serious blow to Canadians’ rights to freedom of expression and association. And even though the summit has passed, the harm to constitutional liberties of many individuals has not.

Of the 263 individuals who were held for bail hearings during the G20 weekend (out of a total of 1,105 arrested), all but 10 or so arrestees were released by the judiciary on conditions. Some of these bail conditions are necessary to ensure an accused will appear for trial and to ensure the public’s safety while she/he is on release. But as a violation of a bail condition can lead to prompt imprisonment, such conditions must be narrowly tailored to achieve their purpose. They must also be respectful of the fact that arrestees are presumed innocent and have yet to have their day in court. With this in mind, the CCLA is concerned with a common bail condition imposed on arrestees not to participate in, or organize, any political protests anywhere or under any circumstances. In some more serious cases, this condition is coupled with a ban on the use of any communication devices, such as telephones or computers.

The CCLA is concerned that such sweeping conditions unnecessarily infringe the constitutional rights of G20-arrestees to freedom of expression and association. Political speech and organizing, especially when concerned with matters of public interest like the G20, are essential to a democratic society; they lie at the core of the protections guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Attempts by the state to completely deny these rights to individuals should attract immediate public scrutiny and demand the highest levels of justification by the government. Under the bail conditions presently imposed, many G-20 arrestees cannot organize a public fundraiser to help pay for their defence; cannot pick up a phone to speak to a reporter about their case; and cannot attend the mass rallies in Toronto calling for a G20 inquiry (even though they are the individuals most affected by the G20). Bail conditions that result in these absurd outcomes are over-broad and, therefore, potentially unconstitutional.

While the CCLA acknowledges conditions are a necessary restriction to release on bail, it is our opinion that G20 bail conditions should be narrowly tailored and must not unnecessarily trample constitutional liberties. This means that, as a general rule, such conditions should not include restrictions on the the ability of arrestees to engage in legitimate political expression or to peacefully demonstrate. G20-arrestees should be released under the normal conditions imposed on the vast majority of individuals released on bail — namely, an undertaking to keep the peace and not to commit another criminal offence.

  • Allen Ward v. British Columbia: An Important Precedent for Damages Awarded For Breach Of Charter Rights

The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that damages may be awarded for breach of Charter rights in some instances.

The case is potentially relevant for G20 complainants if they can prove a Charter right(s) was breached.  They will not have to prove that the police intentionally breached their Charter rights, or acted maliciously or in bad faith – they will only have to show that damages are an appropriate and just remedy using the criteria established by the Court, and discussed below.

In the case of Allen Ward v. British Columbia, Vancouver police received information that a man wearing certain clothes intended to throw a pie at Prime Minister Stephen Harper.  The police spotted Allen Ward, whose features and clothing matched the description of the potential pie thrower.   The police mistook Mr. Ward for the pie thrower, and handcuffed him.  Mr. Ward shouted his disapproval, and was then arrested for breach of the peace.

The police strip searched Mr. Ward. The Supreme Court of Canada upheld the Trial Judge’s finding that the strip search violated Mr. Ward’s rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure pursuant to section 8 of the Charter.

The Supreme Court set out a three-part process to determine when it is appropriate to award damages for a Charter breach:  (1) establish a Charter right has been breached; (2) show that damages are a just and appropriate remedy, because they either vindicate the right and/or act as a deterrent of future breaches of the right; and (3) the State fails to show that there are countervailing considerations – such as alternative remedies (i.e. other than damages), or interference with good governance — that would negate the award of damages.

In Ward, the Supreme Court found that the award of $5000 was appropriate.  The Court held that the strip search – an inherently humiliating process –was unconstitutional, and violated Mr. Ward’s rights.  Therefore, damages would vindicate him, and deter future breaches by the police.  The Court also noted that while the correction officers’ conduct in this case was serious and contributed to the breach, the conduct was not intentional, in bad faith, malicious, or high-handed, and so the sum of $5000 was appropriate.

Mr. Ward’s car was also seized and searched.  On this issue, the Court found that the objects of compensation (vindication or deterrence) were not engaged, and that Mr. Ward did not suffer any injury from the search of his car.

  • CCLA Findings & Recommendations
  • “A Breach of the Peace” – A Preliminary Report of Observations During the 2010 G20 Summit

On June 29th, 2010, CCLA issued a preliminary report of observations based on the reports of its own human rights monitors who had conducted observations throughout the week.  The preliminary report concluded that  ‘police conduct during the G20 Summit was, at times, disproportionate, arbitrary and excessive’ and that ‘despite instances of commendable and professional conduct, the policing and security efforts, especially after 5PM on June 26 and June 27, failed to demonstrate commitment to Canada’s constitutional values’.  It further concluded that the abuses exceeded the threshold of a few isolated incidents and represented instances of inappropriate policing that could not simply be swept away, and demanded accountability.

Download “A Breach of the Peace” —— Téléchargez “Troubler la Paix – Résumé”

The preliminary report suggested several avenues for remedies:

  1. Repeal or significant amendment of the Public Works Protection Act to meet basic constitutional standards
  2. Withdrawal of all charges laid under the Public Works Protection Act
  3. Implementation of consultation and transparency requirements for regulatory processes
  4. Apology from the Ontario government for the process used to adopt the designation pursuant to the Public Works Protection Act
  5. Implementation of better guidelines for the establishment of security perimeters
  6. Regulation of new crowd control technologies prior to their use and deployment
  7. Compensation for business owners and for persons wrongfully arrested
  8. Amendments to the Criminal Code to modernize and bring up to constitutional standards the provisions relating to breach of the peace, unlawful assemblies and riots
  9. Full independent inquiry into the actions of the police during the G20, in particular:
    1. The dispersal of protesters at the designated demonstration site in Queen’s Park on Saturday June 26th
    2. The detention and mass arrest on the Esplanade on the night of Saturday June 26th
    3. The arrests and police actions outside the Eastern Ave. detention centre on the morning of Sunday, June 27th
    4. The prolonged detention and mass arrest of individuals at Queen St. W. and Spadina Ave. on the evening of Sunday, June 27th
    5. The conditions of detention at the Eastern Ave. Centre
  • In Brief
CCLA Recommendations & Avenues for Action Status
Repeal or significant amendment of the Public Works Protection Act to meet basic constitutional standards No response.

CCLA is working on proposed amendments to submit to Queen’s Park, Ontario’s legislature. NDP (Ontario) is working on this issue as well.

Withdrawal of all charges laid under the Public Works Protection Act Charge not prosecuted: the file was misplaced.

As no other charges were brought under the Act, this recommendation is DONE.

Implementation of consultation, transparency and notice  requirements for adopting new regulations that limit civil liberties. The Ombudsman on Ontario’s investigation may provide some avenues for law reform.
Apology from the Ontario government for the process used to adopt the designation pursuant to the Public Works Protection Act The Ombudsman on Ontario’s investigation may include this as one of its recommendations.
Implementation of better guidelines for the establishment of security perimeters No response
Regulation of new crowd control technologies prior to their use and deployment See CCLA’s letter to the Solicitor General of Ontario, dated August 25, 2010.
Compensation for business owners and for persons wrongfully arrested Class action underway

See CCLA’s letter to Minister of Public Safety, Hon. Vic Toews, dated August 23, 2010.

Amendments to the Criminal Code to modernize and bring up to constitutional standards the provisions relating to breach of the peace, unlawful assemblies and the suppression of riots. No response

See CCLA’s letter to Minister of Justice, Hon Rob Nicholson, dated August 23, 2010.

Full independent inquiry into the actions of the police during the G20 Sign our petition