The Liberal government is again putting forward sweeping powers to protect courts and power generating plants.
Proposed legislation — Security for Courts, Electricity Generating Facilities and Nuclear Facilities Act, 2014 — introduced Thursday replaces the “outdated” and much criticized Public Works Protection Act.
The proposed legislation was created out of former chief justice Roy McMurtry’s recommendations in the wake of the G20 fiasco, where the obscure 1939 Public Works Protection Act — enacted to secure against Nazi saboteurs in the Second World War — was used to quietly pass a regulation giving police broad powers of arrest.
“This bill would strike the necessary balance between protecting civil liberties and ensuring the safety of critical infrastructure,” Yasir Naqvi, minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, said in the legislature when he reintroduced the bill.
This marks the third time this kind of legislation has been introduced in the legislature. The difference now is that the Liberals now have a majority.
Previous attempts to introduce a modernized version of the 1939 act have come under fire from lawyers and critics, who feared the changes would give courthouse security staff sweeping powers to search, seize and deny entry.
Among other things, the proposed changes would require all those entering a courthouse to show identification, provide a reason for being there, subject themselves to a search and, if deemed necessary, allow security officers to search the vehicle they arrived in without a warrant.
Anyone refusing to identify themselves or failing to leave on demand would face fines up to $2,000, or imprisonment up to 60 days.
The security regulations for electricity-generating and nuclear facilities are similar and carry fines of up to $2,000 or two months in jail.
“The Security for Courts, Electricity Generating Facilities and Nuclear Facilities Act is a priority for the government,” Naqvi said.
He explained it would repeal the Public Works Protection Act; set out a legislative amendment to the Police Services Act to address court security; and set out stand-alone legislation respecting security at proscribed electricity generating and nuclear facilities.
Before introducing the proposed legislation, the government says a number of organizations were consulted or took part in public hearings by the legislature Standing Committee on Justice Policy, including the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Ontario Bar Association, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Ontario Provincial Police, Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, Toronto Police Association, Ontario Association of Police Services Boards. Ontario Power Generation 3, Bruce Power, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, Hydro One and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission.