The Policing of Major Events in Canada: Lessons from Toronto's G20 and Vancouver's Olympics

W. Wesley Pue, Robert Diab, Grace Jackson

Research output: Article


Major events ranging from sporting events to major international conferences too often result in disorder, deployment of riot squads, and mass arrests. Events surrounding a meeting of the G20 in Toronto and those at Vancouver’s Winter Olympics provide insight into the ways in which things can go wrong and the ways in which they can go well at major events. This article employs a “thick history” of events in order to explore gaps in Canadian law, including gaps between “law in the books” and “law in action.” The legal frameworks governing large-scale events affect the likelihood of success measured in public safety, minimization of disorder, and protection of basic liberties. Surprisingly, large events often proceed without the benefit of a developed legal framework, leading to confusion among federal police, local police, and civil authority. We assess past reliance on the common law, a Vancouver City bylaw, Ontario’s Public Works Protection Act [PWPA], and the policing and security provisions of the federal Foreign Missions and International Organizations Act (Foreign Missions Act) in order to determine which sorts of legal arrangements are most conducive to successful event management. Since major events in Canada are most often developed in law’s penumbra, without the benefit of clear legal authority or statutory direction governing the measures that are required, both effective management and ordinary liberties are compromised. A “worst of both worlds” outcome destabilizes police–citizen relationships and leaves individuals uncertain as to the durability of their rights of property, speech, assembly, movement, and personal integrity. Equally, police forces are left insecure as to the lawful means by which they should perform their duties. A comparison of the two events provides the pathology and a prescription, illustrating the need for legislation to govern the management of major events.

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
JournalAll Faculty Publications
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2015

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