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June 26, 2010

Your rights, should you choose to neglect them

There is a minor to do in Canada over the status of a security fence separating G20 participants from lumpen Toronto, particularly in light of a regulatory change affording police broader latitude to stop and identify anyone approaching the barrier (within 5m of the barrier, to be precise).

Take vaguely right of centre Canadian blogger Jay Currie, writing:

Let’s just suspend the Charter of Rights for a few days. I mean, hey, where’s the harm in that?

Hark at the peevish voice of outraged moderation.*

A minor problem. The Charter of Rights has not been suspended. The security fence has been designated a public work under the 1939 Public Works Protection Act and, much like, say, the perimeter fence of a hydro-electric facility, is subject to more stringent policing. No law has been changed or enacted. This is a regulatory change made by the Ontario Cabinet following a request by Toronto's chief of police for clarification of police powers and responsibilities during the G20 summit. This seems entirely reasonable to me.

It is entirely reasonable for the police to have the authority to protect the summit security perimeter and entirely reasonable for the Ontario government to provide that authority under existing law.

What is not reasonable is to assume Canadians have any rights to speak of, Charter or no Charter. Provided it can maintain the confidence of Parliament, the government of the day can do precisely what it likes. This is Canada, not the United States. The Charter of Rights has not been suspended. The Charter of Rights is valueless.

* Hey, when was the last time I slagged Jay's opinions? I am gunning for a sidebar quote here.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at June 26, 2010 08:48 AM