The Ontario Human Rights Commission today called on the Government of Ontario, police services and others to implement the Coroner’s inquest recommendations into the deaths of Reyal Jardine-Douglas, Sylvia Klibingaitis, and Michael Eligon.
The OHRC has worked with the Toronto, Ottawa and Windsor police services, among others, to try to help bring a human rights lens to policing. The OHRC is also involved in an ongoing Project Charter with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) aimed at identifying and eliminating discrimination in MCSCS services (including corrections) and employment.
OHRC Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall was one of dozens of witnesses to speak to the inquest. She said that human rights issues emerge when considering the use of force. Police services have an obligation to provide a service environment free of discrimination to people with actual and perceived mental health disabilities, including people who are racialized or are otherwise protected under the Human Rights Code.
"Don't just go out and react to a weapon, but look at possible ways of responding to people with mental health issues who also have a weapon," Ms. Hall told the jury last month. "We would like to see considerations for meeting the needs of the person with the weapon, the person with mental health issues, and doing that in a way that is still safe for the police and the public."
Several of the jury’s recommendations echo the OHRC’s in its new report, “Police Use of Force and Mental Health,” which was released today. Examples include the need to collect and analyze data, provide integrated, scenario-based training, and further study the use of conducted energy weapons (CEWs).
The OHRC report reflects what the OHRC told the inquest, expands on key areas such as the use of CEWS and Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams (MCITs), and calls for immediate action on training, policy, data collection and reporting. It also calls for a review of the provincial use of force model.
In her introduction to the report, Ms. Hall notes, “We have already seen, and continue to see, many cases where people with mental illness have come into contact with police, sometimes with disastrous results. And we hear about these issues often from people and organizations in the community... The challenge will be to put recommendations into action – and the time to do that is now.”