Groups call for increased police oversight in Ontario, but some say it is not enough

August 23, 2017
Article Source
The Lawyer's Daily

A coalition of advocacy groups is joining with the Ontario Human Rights Commission to call on the provincial government to implement recommendations on police oversight made after a public review, but observers say additional steps are needed to ensure police are accountable to the public.

The rights commission and the coalition members, which include the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA), want to see changes recommended by the Independent Police Oversight Review implemented immediately.

The review was led by Ontario Court of Appeal Justice Michael H. Tulloch, who was tasked in April 2016 to look into Ontario's three police oversight bodies: the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC). Tulloch was asked to lead the review following public demonstrations of dissatisfaction with policing and police oversight.

The coalition highlighted the need to implement legislative changes, as recommended by Tulloch, to clarify the duty of police to co-operate with the OIPRD; permit the SIU to refer conduct matters to the OIPRD; and allow the OIPRD to initiate investigations in the public interest even if no complaint is filed.

The coalition said its statement was "prompted by recent events that highlight several police accountability issues that require immediate action," referring to the case of Dafonte Miller, who was allegedly beaten last December in Whitby by an off-duty Toronto police constable and his brother, Both men were charged by the SIU in July with aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. Miller permanently lost sight in one eye.

"The failure of two police services to notify the SIU about Dafonte Miller raises concerns of systemic discrimination and ineffective mechanisms to hold police accountable for it," Renu Mandhane, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC), said in a news release. "All of Justice Tulloch's recommendations must be implemented."

The coalition also wants the SIU, OIPRD and the OCPC to implement mandatory social and cultural competency training; collect race-based and other demographic data; and form meaningful and equitable partnerships with Indigenous organizations. The OHRC is also calling for the three oversight bodies to take immediate steps to implement those recommendations that do not require legislative change or significant additional resources.

Read more: Groups call for increased police oversight in Ontario, but some say it is not enough