It's up to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to call a public inquiry into mass arrests during the G20 weekend in Toronto last June, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty said Friday.
"I'm not sure if you've ever had this opportunity, and I know it's a difficult thing, but maybe you could put that question to the prime minister," Mr. McGuinty told reporters when asked if he would call an inquiry. "It was his G20, it was his G8, it was his funding. We in the province of Ontario had very little choice but to assume the responsibility of a host jurisdiction, and I think that's the kind of question you should put to that particular individual."
More than 1,100 people were arrested and detained during the G20 weekend in what Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin called a mass violation of civil rights.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the New Democrats and the Progressive Conservatives have all called on Mr. McGuinty to apologize for the secret law his government passed regarding police powers during the G20 weekend.
"Mr. Harper has nothing to do with Mr. McGuinty's secret G20 regulation that resulted in illegal arrests of over 1,000 people," said NDP justice critic Peter Kormos. "Mr. McGuinty should be held to account. People rely on their government to protect their civil rights, not to violate them."
The Tories said Mr. McGuinty was ducking his responsibility by trying to shift the blame for the G20 arrests to Prime Minister Harper.
"Harper didn't pass a secret G20 law, the McGuinty government did," said Opposition justice critic Garfield Dunlop. "People were charged and they were put in jail and they knew nothing really about what they were doing wrong."
Unlike the NDP and civil liberties groups, the Tories don't want a public inquiry into the G20, but they do want Mr. McGuinty to say he's sorry for the secret law.
"He owes an apology. It's that simple," said Dunlop. "We're not asking for a huge, expensive inquiry. We're asking for an apology."
Mr. McGuinty said he has already admitted the Liberal government could have done a better job of informing the public exactly what powers it gave the 20,000 police officers patrolling Toronto during the G20.
"I think our responsibility is to own up to any shortcomings on our part," he said. "We have done that with respect to our absence when it came to making sure people understood what the law meant, and what it didn't mean, and then we asked for a report from (former) chief justice Roy McMurtry, and that's it."
Mr. McMurtry issued his report into the G20 secret law last week and said it was so vague it was wide open to abuse and could lead to "inconsistent and arbitrary" enforcement.
However, Mr. McGuinty dismissed suggestions he should call a public inquiry seeing as it was his secret law that apparently enabled police to stop, detain and arrest people far from the summit site, even though that wasn't what the law actually said.
"We didn't do a good enough job in making clear in fact what the law was, and there was a mix up between us and the police," Mr. McGuinty said. "We should have played a leadership role in that regard."