Tallying the G20’s legal costs

More than six months after the last world leader jetted out of fortress Toronto, the impact of the G20 summit continues to reverberate across the city and the country, including the financial cost of the various legal proceedings and reviews that have resulted.

With a slew of reports, inquiries, reviews, class actions, criminal trials, and civil actions underway or still to come, the legal bills are threatening to add significantly to the famous billion-dollar security price tag.

Nathalie Des Rosiers, general counsel at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, continues to press for a single public inquiry into police actions that would consolidate at least some of the public probes. She insists it’s not too late to save money.

“When you have a multi-force policing effort, we ought to have had one public inquiry that has powers to compel testimony,” she says. “It’s sufficiently complex that a public inquiry would have been the cheaper and more comprehensive route. I think it would still be a cheaper route, but we’re still working with all the inquiries that are taking place.”

The CCLA is close to releasing its own report on G20 policing and public accountability after it held hearings in November. Des Rosiers says it’s also planning a book on the summit in addition to making submissions to most of the public inquiries underway.

One of the few proceedings yet to hear from the CCLA is the Toronto Police Services Board’s independent civilian review led by former associate chief justice John Morden.

Based at the offices of his firm, Heenan Blaikie LLP, Morden will make non-binding recommendations after tackling 35 questions posed by the review’s terms of reference about the board’s role in planning and leading the G20 security effort.

The review was only supposed to take 12 weeks when it was announced in July. But by the time of Morden’s selection, the deadline had become much more vague with no specific budget for the review.

Morden has been instructed to deliver monthly invoices while working at a rate of $480 per hour with other members of the small team remunerated on a sliding scale. Only the first month’s bill of $24,000 is publicly available so far, but the board is expected to approve additional costs at its next meeting in February.

Review counsel Ryan Teschner says there are four phases to the process: background research, document review, interviews, and report writing. After four months, he notes the team is just beginning the document review phase but he can’t say when it’ll be ready to hear from witnesses.

“We understand this review is being conducted with public money, so we are working hard to be as efficient and effective as possible and to make sure there is no overlap and no duplication of efforts,” Teschner says.

Former chief justice and Gowling Lafleur Henderson LLP counsel Roy McMurtry has clearly cut the provincial government a deal for his review of the so-called secret law under the Public Works Protection Act.

He’s working at a bargain rate of $300 per hour. Joe Kim, spokesman for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, won’t say how much the review has spent so far. “We want to provide one final tally once the report is submitted,” he says. That’s expected in April, he adds.

Ontario ombudsman André Marin conducted his own review of the act using his office’s regular budget. The Special Investigations Unit also kept its probe of six allegations of police brutality in-house.

The new Office of the Independent Police Review Director has hired additional investigators in order to meet the demands of its systemic review of G20 policing, but spokeswoman Allison Hawkins says it’s difficult to isolate the cost of that in its overall budget.

In addition to the police services board proceedings, the Toronto Police Service is also conducting its own internal review related to the G20, although spokeswoman Meaghan Gray says it’s all within the normal budget.

The service has, however, hired Borden Ladner Gervais LLP to represent it in various G20-related civil suits, but Gray notes an insurer covers the legal fees.

Seeking to put a significantly larger dent into public coffers than any of the multitude of G20 reviews and investigations are two class action lawsuits launched within weeks of one another in the summer.

But before the litigants take on the police, they may have to face off against one another. Murray Klippenstein, the lawyer on a $45-million class action against Toronto police and the RCMP, says it’s likely only one of the matters will proceed. The members of his class include about 800 people arrested and released without charge during the G20.

David Midanik is the lawyer for a $115-million class action that represents all of those arrested - estimated at about 1,170 people - during the G20 weekend. He says it’s important to include those who were charged.

“Most of the people who were charged were at the forefront of exercising democratic rights, so in terms of preserving civil liberties and democratic rights, it’s essential those people get representation,” Midanik says.

Klippenstein, meanwhile, says he’s considering expanding his class to include those who faced charges that were later withdrawn or stayed.

Initially, Midanik’s matter also included business owners who suffered property damage during the summit. That’s no longer the case due to a fear it made the class too broad for certification. Both lawyers are preparing applications for certification, but neither expects a court hearing for months.

Adam Goodman acted for several of those charged by acting at bail hearings on a pro bono basis. Although most of them had their charges dropped at the first appearance in court, one of his clients is facing a trial in April.

Goodman says he’s looking forward to hearing testimony from police when trials get underway in courtrooms across the city next month.

“There’s been mostly silence from the police officers, but at trial, they’ll be on the stand and under oath. There might be some who don’t like what happened but feel they have to be quiet right now.”

According to the most recent statistics released by the Ministry of the Attorney General, of the 320 people charged with criminal offences in the aftermath of the G20, just 86 are still before the courts.

Around 60 had charges diverted, pleaded guilty or were subjects of peace bonds. Just over half of those charged had their charges stayed or withdrawn, the bulk of those on the first day of mass court appearances.

In several cases, the withdrawal of charges led to a switch of focus to civil suits from criminal matters.
Clayton Ruby, for example, is preparing a civil suit on behalf of Charles Veitch, a British satirist charged under the act for failing to identify himself within five metres of the security fence. Ruby also defended him on the charges that were later withdrawn.

Another client, Natalie Gray, has sued Toronto police after they allegedly hit her with rubber bullets. She was charged with obstructing a police officer, but those charges were later withdrawn.

Ruby is also representing Dorian Barton, who claims officers assaulted him during the G20 weekend. The SIU closed an investigation into his case late last year after concluding there wasn’t enough evidence to lay charges, but new photos of the alleged assault have since emerged.

“The SIU is a fake agency,” Ruby says. “It’s a fraud and a sham. They’re not interested in investigating effectively.”

In Ruby’s view, the raft of G20 investigations is ineffective because each is too narrowly focused. “There’s no sign that enough pressure is going to be exerted to bring about a royal commission, and I can’t imagine anything less will do. So we’re left with the civil law system, which unfortunately only results in damages and publicity.”

Des Rosiers says she’s not surprised at the G20’s staying power in the public consciousness and expects it to remain a big file for the CCLA well into the future.

“What we have seen from people on the ground and from what our monitors saw presents a significant violation of civil rights that weekend. Our view is that the story has to be told, and accountability, no matter how long and how difficult it will be, needs to be brought to bear because what happened was unacceptable.

It takes some time for processes of accountability to unfold, so I think the story will be told for quite some time yet.”

For more on this story, see "Lawyers gearing up for G20" and "G20 legal fallout: summits cost too much."

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