Illustration by Brett Lamb/Torontoist.
Torontoist is ending the year by naming our Heroes and Villains—Toronto’s very best and very worst people, places, and things over the past twelve months. From December 13–17: the Villains! From December 20–24, the Heroes! And, from December 27–30, you can vote for Toronto’s Superhero and Supervillain of the year.
Ontario’s self-proclaimed watchdog bared his teeth this year with a report denouncing the provincial government’s actions around the G20 summit.
André Marin’s report as the Ontario Ombudsman [PDF] confirmed what we all suspected: Dalton McGuinty’s government passed a bad law, kept it a secret, and played broken telephone with the public and the police about what the law actually said. Revisions to the Public Works Protection Act (a law the report calls a “hoary relic of World War II”) gave the police sweeping powers to search and detain those within the restricted security zone. A warped version of these changes went public the day before the summit, and the government allowed everyone to believe the police had the power to search and detain anyone within five metres of the security fence. Marin called this legislation a “trap”—everyone’s legal rights had changed without any fair warning.
The report has caused a stir. McGuinty agreed to implement all of Marin’s recommendations, starting with changes to the Public Works Protection Act to make sure its provisions are constitutionally sound. Meanwhile, Police Chief Bill Blair has come off looking defensive and shady—on his order, the police did not co-operate with Marin in producing the report. Blair has since ducked Marin’s findings by loudly reminding everyone that the police are not under the ombudsman’s jurisdiction.
Marin’s report is the antithesis of bureaucratic in tone: it uses strong language and dad-humour to make its message resonate. Entitled “Caught in the Act,” the report includes subheadings like “Don’t Fence Me In,” “Putting Square Fence Posts in Round Holes,” and, of course, “I Fought the Law and the Law Won.” His office gathered evidence from YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook and congratulated itself for its “strategic use of social media.” Famously, Marin even called the provincial government’s actions “the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history.”
Marin is not everyone’s favourite character. He has been criticized by for treating his staff harshly, and for charging items such as a flat-screen TV and aftershave to his public expense account.
Regardless, Marin’s report is a watershed. HIs office announced its investigation only two weeks after the G20 summit, when hopes of a public inquiry were still high. His swift reaction was impressive—a first step toward understanding what had actually happened. Six months later, Marin’s report is a stand-alone condemnation of the provincial government’s secrecy and negligence, and the police force’s abuse of power. The report also sets out a policy framework for the future, a blueprint for accountability and transparency to make sure that something like the G20 doesn’t happen again. For all that, we could not be more grateful.
This article originally said that André Marin’s report, “Caught in the Act,” “called the provincial government’s actions ‘the most massive compromise of civil liberties in Canadian history'”—in fact, Marin himself said that at the press conference for the report’s release. Thanks to Jonathan Goldsbie for catching the error.