Avant Garde | APRIL 2022 | Volume 2, Issue 4
DOWNLOAD THE FULL ISSUE HERE
LINCOLN ALEXANDER SCHOOL OF LAW
IN THIS ISSUE:
1 | The Blockades, Police Budgets and Individual Freedom Dilemma
2 | Increasing Efficiency at the Landlord Tenant Board - A Losing Battle?
3 | Home Buyers and Provincial Legislation
4 | Review Of Clubs At Lincoln Law
5 | For Iftar: Lincoln Alexander’s Ramadan Food Drive
6 | Old Etiquette and New Tech Meet in Virtual Courtrooms
7 | A Tenuous Articling Program & The LSO Mandatory Minimum Wage Debate
8 | Leading Decision Affirms Right to Safe Drinking Water in First Nations Communities
9 | Avatar Lawyers - A New Way to Practice?
10 | Technological advances in immigration and refugee decisions
11 | 40 Years Later: Reflecting on the Impact of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
12 | The ‘Kucherov Rule’: How to Circumvent the National Hockey League’s Salary Cap
The Blockades, Police Budgets and Individual Freedom Dilemma
An overview of the proposed “Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act”
BY MIRA SETIA, 2L, Editor-In-Chief
Following the six-day Ambassador Bridge (“Bridge”) blockade in February 2022, Bill 100, or the “Keeping Ontario Open for Business Act” (“Act”), was introduced by the Ontario government. The anti-mandate protests in Ottawa early this year caused major disturbances in the city. They reached Toronto, which increased Toronto Police Service’s presence in the downtown core; and finally made their way onto Windsor’s Ambassador Bridge. The Bridge, at the Windsor-Detroit border, is one of the busiest international crossings in North America and is one of the largest hubs for all Canada-U.S. trade. Approximately $17 million in goods crosses over the Bridge hourly, which makes up about a quarter of all Canada-U.S. trade. As such, the six-day blockade at the Bridge in February cost the Canadian economy around $3 billion (possibly more). The larger impact of this loss is harder to predict, because jobs and the value of those goods were also affected.
On Friday February 11th, 2022, Premier Doug Ford declared a province-wide State of Emergency in response to the protests and blockades; by the afternoon, an Ontario Superior Court judge granted an injunction barring protesters from blocking traffic on the Bridge. The goal was to end the “siege” and allow police to fine/imprison protesters that do not allow the transport of goods across international border crossings, as well as the 400-series highways, airports, bridges, ports and railways across the province. Police patrolled the Bridge that entire weekend and moved demonstrators who were blocking road access out by Sunday Night. Officers from Windsor, London, Ont., Ontario Police Service (OPP) and the RCMP remained at the former protest site the next day. The protests in Ottawa, Toronto, and Windsor increased police presence in all of these cities. The government was right to allow people to exercise their freedom of assembly and let people support the protests through freedom of opinion. But damage to the economy is where the State drew the line. The impact of massive protests like these is not cheap. The City of Ottawa incurred a $36 million policing bill to clear out the Country’s capital and it cost the City of Windsor $5.7 million to clear up the Bridge blockade (mainly a policing bill).
As a result, Bill 100 was proposed. This proposed legislation would make it illegal to obstruct certain protected transportation infrastructure (i.e international borders, airports and things relating to international trade) if the blockage disrupts economic activity or interferes with the safety, health, or well-being of members of the public.
If enacted, this Act will give law enforcement tools to respond to blockades without the province having to invoke an emergency. It includes an approximate $96 million policing investment to:
Establish a permanent Emergency Response Team for the OPP;
Enhance training at the Ontario Police College with a focus on effective public order policing; and
Purchase heavy equipment such as tow trucks to remove blockades.
Moreover, the Act allows police officers to:
Suspend drivers' licenses and vehicle permits;
Seize license plates of those involved in an illegal blockade; and
Remove and store other objects contributing to a blockade.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones says the Act is narrow in scope and will not impede Ontarians' ability to peacefully protest; and Attorney General Doug Downey says that this action “will provide police and prosecutors with new tools to keep people safe and protect the vital economic lifelines that drive the prosperity of our communities.”
The primary goal here is to keep borders clear and keep trade flowing for the economy. Although the scope is narrow, increasing police budgets and broadening police powers may have potential trickle-down consequences to individual freedoms. This is the dilemma. Although we do not want to increase policing budgets, when those funds could be invested in mental health and social services (i.e. the #DefundThePolice movement), we cannot allow more blockades like the one on Ambassador Bridge; because the economy, jobs and trade will suffer greatly. However, we cannot stop those blockades without training police officers on public order and giving them the tools to do so; which requires a budget increase. All of these require balancing individual freedoms.
Although it is too early to predict the legal consequences for some of the Bridge protestors, we can still anticipate that future protests will be met with more strict action from the State. Whether these strict actions, and the increased police budget, will have a trickle down effect on individual freedoms is something only time will tell. If the Act comes into force, it will be reviewed after one year. That review will answer all our concerns.