Presentation by Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane
to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy– Bill 175, Safer Ontario Act
Thursday, March 1, 2018
Check against delivery
On behalf of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, I am pleased to join you today to support Bill 175, the Safer Ontario Act.
With this Bill, the government is putting forward a modern vision of policing.
Diverse stakeholders, including human rights groups, the Ombudsman, police chiefs and services boards and the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres have communicated support for reforms to policing in Ontario.
At the same time, I note that several parts of the Bill do not have the support of Ontario police associations.
These associations have an important perspective on some of the workplace issues, but oversight cannot be one of them.
Why is there lack of trust?
Trust in police is especially fractured among groups protected under Ontario’s Human Rights Code, because they bear the brunt of the criminal justice system’s negative consequences.
The prison population provides a snapshot:
- Indigenous and Black people are grossly over-represented
- And the number of prisoners with addictions, and mental health or intellectual disabilities has grown dramatically in recent years.
- The impact of the criminal justice system is felt at an individual, family and community level and can have inter-generational impacts on well-being.
We have long called for bold steps to promote accountability and build trust with historically marginalized communities.
While this legislation won’t remedy injustices of the past, it marks a significant step towards making our communities safer.
The Bill is an opportunity to build trust because it:
- Recognizes and enshrines the Charter and Human Rights Code as essential to adequate and effective policing.
- Clearly outlines the responsibilities of police services, boards, and oversight agencies
- And enhances accountability by creating strong oversight entities.
The Bill also reflects recommendations from Justice Michael Tulloch’s review, along with lessons learned from recent high profile incidents involving serious injury and death.
For example, it:
- Provides clear rules for what incidents fall within the jurisdiction of the SIU, and when they must be reported
- Creates greater transparency in reporting from oversight agencies
- Provides for the arms-length investigation of police misconduct complaints
- And it allows an independent Tribunal to oversee and impose meaningful disciplinary measures.
The Bill provides a pathway to sustainable culture change through mandated training, demographic representation on Boards, and the creation of community safety and well-being plans that address systemic discrimination.
Data collection missing
Policing must reflect and respond to the unique issues communities face.
To do that, we need as much information as possible about what’s happening on the ground.
Bill 175 provides many avenues for collecting and acting on qualitative data, but quantitative data is required to compel meaningful change.
That’s why the Commission strongly urges the government to make the collection of human rights-based data mandatory for all police services and all police oversight agencies.
Human rights-based data will help identify where the problems lie, and facilitate the creation of targeted solutions.
Our current inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination by the Toronto Police Service shows how challenging collecting this data can be without government leadership.
Eight months into the inquiry, and we are still at a standstill over whether the data we are requesting exists, and whether it can be produced.
Call to action
We call on the Government, through this legislation, to require three things.
First, that police services establish permanent data collection and retention systems to record human rights-based data on all:
- Stops of civilians
- Use of force incidents, and
- Interactions where officers ask about immigration status or conduct immigration status checks.
The data should be standardized, disaggregated, tabulated and publicly reported by each police service.
Second, we call on the Government to require police oversight agencies to collect human rights-based data, as a foundation for public accountability.
And third, we urge the government to adopt the Ombudsman’s recommendation that any use-of-force model and police training emphasize de-escalation of conflict in crisis situations.
In closing, Bill 175 is a once-in-a-generation moment to fundamentally shift the culture of policing and create greater community trust in law enforcement.