Police conducted one of the largest pre-emptive raids during Toronto's G20 summit weekend without a warrant because they thought they didn't need one.
The Crown decided otherwise, and ended up dropping all charges against about 100 people arrested on University of Toronto campus on June 27. Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair told a Commons committee this week the warrant was an issue when it came to prosecuting those arrested.
"While there were reasonable and probable grounds for laying the charges, the Crown had decided to withdraw them," said Brendan Crawley, a spokesman for Ontario's Ministry of the Attorney-General. "In all cases, the Crown has an on-going duty to assess charges as they move forward and, if the Crown determines at any time that there is no longer a reasonable prospect of conviction, the Crown is duty bound to withdraw the charges. That is what happened, and why."
Law professor Kent Roach said a missing warrant often would result in evidence being excluded.
The so-called Feeney warrant in question has been entrenched in law since a 1997 Supreme Court of Canada case. It's required when police want to enter residences and obliges them to meet a higher burden of proof.
"The rationale behind the decision was that you have a particularly high level of expectation of privacy in a place you're using as a dwelling house and so you then generally require a warrant," Prof. Roach said.
"You can only enter without a warrant in very narrow circumstances - if it's necessary to prevent imminent bodily harm or death or that it's necessary to prevent the imminent loss of evidence."
Officers did not think they needed warrants to enter the U of T gymnasium, says police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray.
"They had reasonable and probable grounds for those arrests and it was the Crown after the fact that said they needed a Feeney warrant."
Most of the people arrested in the raid were protesters from Quebec, and some later accused police of profiling them because of their province of origin.
Montreal lawyer Julius Grey said several people approached him following the summit weekend. He has no immediate plans to pursue legal action, he said, but "if it should happen that some of the people are not being dealt with in Toronto, then I would sue in Montreal."
"The whole weekend, generally what you saw was a massive abuse of rights. This [raid]would be one of them," he said. "Picking up people who are asleep in gymnasiums, picking up people when you don't have a warrant on university campuses, all these things are well over the line."
Almost 100 Toronto police officers are facing disciplinary action for failing to properly wear their name badges, Chief Blair told the Commons.
Only one officer has ever been disciplined for a badge-related issue since 2006.
Chief Blair defended police conduct, and the Toronto Police Service's $124.8-million budget for the G20 weekend, during his testimony Thursday.
"I think we were ready to deal with what took place," he said, adding that the actions of a few led the police to round up hundreds, who were never charged.
"It [preventative detention]was used a great deal, but when people began to riot in our streets, there was a reasonable expectation that the peace would be breached."
With a report from Gloria Galloway in Ottawa and the Canadian Press