Thursday, March 03, 2011

After months of stalling, Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services finally release Blair-Bartolucci G20 Summit correspondence

Eight months later and still no one has been made to walk the plank over last summer’s G20 Summit nightmare.

Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, who lied to the public about a five-metre rule on the security fence around the site, seems to think he’s untouchable and refuses to resign. Former Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Rick Bartolucci, who applauded police for showing “remarkable professionalism” and commended Blair and former OPP Commissioner Julian Fantino for their “remarkable leadership,” has no intention of stepping down either and continues to collect a cabinet minister’s salary in Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Liberal government.

McGuinty admits mistakes were made but won’t apologize and says he still has confidence in Blair.

RCMP Commissioner William Elliott defended police actions at the summit saying they “exercised restraint” and “acted professionally,” while Federal Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, whose department the RCMP reports to, denies knowing anything about the Ontario government’s decision to give police in Toronto heightened powers during the summit.

Other G20 players like Chief Supt. Alphonse MacNeil, head of the Integrated Security Unit for the RCMP, the aforementioned Fantino, and PCO Special Advisor Ward Elcock, who was coordinator for G8/G20 security and reported to Prime Minister Stephen Harper through former National Security Advisor Marie-Lucie Morin, seem to have flown under the radar.

Most of the attention of late has been focused on Blair and Bartolucci, thanks largely to the damning report by Ontario Ombudsman André Marin, released Dec. 7, on his investigation into the origin and subsequent communication of the controversial security regulation passed by the province prior to the June 26-27 G20 summit.

Marin found that Regulation 233/10, made under the 71-year-old Public Works Protection Act (PWPA) to apply to parts of downtown Toronto near the summit meeting site, was “probably illegal,” “likely unconstitutional” and “never should have been enacted.”

“The decision of the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services to sponsor the regulation was unreasonable,” Marin wrote. “It was also almost certainly beyond the authority of the government to enact.”

In the days leading up to and over the course of the G20 summit weekend, some 1,105 people were arrested; the largest mass arrest in Canadian history, Marin said. Many people were beaten, punched, detained, strip searched, humiliated and shot at with rubber bullets, tear gas or pepper spray.

It all leads back to May 12, 2010, when Chief Blair wrote to Minister Bartolucci requesting a designation under the PWPA. The Marin report examines the letter as well as Bartolucci’s reply on June 15, 2010. But up until now, it appears that copies of the correspondence have not been made public.

On July 9, 2010, a request was made under Ontario’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to Community Safety and Correctional Services for copies of any formal letters, memorandums or briefing notes between the ministry and Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair since January 1, 2010, regarding or relating to the PWPA and the G20 Summit.

Despite promising to respond by November 2, 2010, to advise whether or not the information would be released, the ministry dragged out the process until February 14, 2011, before deciding to grant full access to the two letters, the only records ministry officials identified as being responsive to the request.

Marin’s team faced at least two significant obstacles during the probe: The Toronto Police Service refused to cooperate; and, a number of the documents supplied by the ministry for review were protected by solicitor-client privilege, so were therefore “heavily redacted.” This prevented Marin from “exploring the legal advice the Minister received about the lawfulness of Regulation 233/10,” and so was “left in the dark about what actually occurred.” [p. 39, 89-90]

Fortunately, Marin was still able to make some interesting observations about the decision making process:

▪ Based on OPP documentation, it appears that by late March 2010 the provincial PWPA was seriously being discussed as an alternative to the federal Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act, which Public Safety Canada seemed reluctant to enter into a security agreement under with the province. [p. 51]

▪ Internal OPP email communications, dated March 28, 2010, relating to “G8/G20 - Public Works Protection Act,” indicate that the OPP was not particularly interested in exercising authority under this arcane legislation in connection with the G8 summit. [p. 52]

▪ Ministry records indicate that it was known well before the Toronto Police Chief’s letter was received on May 12, 2010, that the Toronto Police Service was looking for a designation under the PWPA. Internal Ministry documents suggest that the approval process relating to this designation was already being planned for by April 9. [p. 52]

▪ On May 20, several Ministry officials met to brief the Minister concerning the Chief’s request. Two senior OPP officials also participated by way of teleconference. [p. 54]

▪ Ministry officials told Bartolucci that to deny Blair’s request outright “would be perceived as not supporting TPS [Toronto Police Service].” [p. 55]

▪ An OPP superintendent who also represented the OPP on the ISU took part in the Minister’s briefing. [p. 56]

(The job of ensuring security for the G20 summit was assigned to the Integrated Security Unit, a joint security team led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in partnership with the Toronto Police Service, the Ontario Provincial Police, the Canadian Forces and the Peel Regional Police.)

▪ The regulation went to Cabinet’s Legislation and Regulation Committee on May 31 as initially planned. In the confidential briefing note prepared for the committee, in a section entitled “Stakeholder Consultations,” it was noted that the OPP, RCMP and Public Safety Canada were aware of the Toronto Police Service request for the regulation. [p. 57]

▪ On June 2, the regulation was discussed and voted on at a special five-member meeting of Cabinet. The following day, the Lieutenant Governor formally signed off on it. [p. 58]

▪ The Minister did not officially inform the Toronto Police Chief that the regulation had been issued until he wrote to him on June 15. [p. 58]

▪ While individual OPP, RCMP and Public Safety Canada members may have had some involvement during the Ministry’s review of the Chief’s request, the time period between the request and the issuance of the regulation was very short, and there is no record of there having been any formal consultation process engaging the ISU or other parties. [p. 61]

▪ There was some suggestion following the summit that the ISU had been the driving force behind the request for the public works designation. However, the evidence obtained during Marin’s investigation indicates that it was indeed the Toronto Police Service that led this initiative. While some officials involved with the ISU were aware of the Toronto Police Chief’s request, it does not appear that the designation request nor the regulation were general knowledge within the Unit. ISU spokespeople did not mention the Public Works Protection Act when specifically asked about their authority for the G20 security measures by the media in advance of the summit, and there was no reference to the Act or the regulation on the ISU’s website. Marin found no Ministry records confirming that the ISU had been provided with official notification that the regulation had passed, and email exchanges amongst the ISU Public Affairs Communications Team (PACT) dating from June 24 suggest that they were completely unaware of the Act or the regulation until that day. [p. 61-62]

▪ Although Regulation 233/10 affected a large segment of downtown Toronto, the Ministry made no attempt to consult city officials about the impact of the public works designation. Ministry records indicate that the Commissioner of Community Safety had asked the Chief whether he had briefed City Hall. However, a May 25 Ministry email confirms that the Chief said he had not consulted Toronto council “due to time limits.” During Marin’s investigation, city officials maintained that they too only learned of the regulation after it was reported in the news. [p. 62]

▪ Aside from Ministry and Toronto Police Service officials, it appears that only isolated staff – predominantly lawyers from other organizations involved with G20 planning – knew about the regulation, and that this information had not filtered up to the senior operational level of either the city or the ISU. The Ministry appears to have taken a “hands-off” approach with respect to G20 security organizers, leaving it to the discretion of the Toronto Police Service to notify its ISU partners and others about the regulation. [p. 63]

▪ The ISU steering committee lead had no idea that the regulation had been proposed, let alone enacted, until he learned about it along with the general public. [p. 96]

McGuinty, Bartolucci and Blair have acknowledged that a better job could have been done in communicating the intent of the regulation, however, no one involved has come right out and said it should never have been enacted.

Marin’s investigation found that some OPP, RCMP and Public Safety Canada members were involved with the McGuinty government’s review of Chief Blair’s request. It’s clear that only a comprehensive provincial-federal, public inquiry can address any outstanding concerns about the summit.