November 3, 2017
Ontario Announces Sweeping Changes to Policing Laws
On November 2, 2017, in a move being described by some as the largest policing transformation in a generation, the Ontario Government introduced Bill 175, the Safer Ontario Act, 2017 (the “Safer Ontario Act”).
The Safer Ontario Act is a comprehensive public safety legislative package that is intended to implement the Government’s new community-based policing strategy. It is also a response to recent calls for improved police oversight and accountability, and the need to adapt the provincial policing framework to the needs of Ontario’s increasingly diverse communities.
From establishing a new Inspector General of Policing to oversee, monitor and investigate policing in the public interest; to improving police oversight and public accountability; the proposed changes, if passed, are expected to have a profound impact on policing in Ontario.
Some of the more notable proposed changes affecting labour relations issues in police include:
- Establishing a new right of police officers and special constables to disclose professional misconduct committed by other members of a police service, and requiring that police service boards develop a process for making such disclosure that includes the person(s) to whom disclosure may be made;
- Expanding the mandate of the Ontario Special Investigations Unit (“SIU”) to include the ability to investigate incidents involving former police service members, certain past incidents, as well as any matter which may constitute a criminal offence that is uncovered in the course of an SIU investigation;
- Renaming the Ontario Civilian Police Commission to the Ontario Policing Discipline Tribunal, and streamlining its mandate to focus only on the adjudication of disciplinary matters;
- Prescribing by regulation the duties that must be performed by sworn police officers;
- Introducing the ability to suspend police officers without pay in certain circumstances, including when an officer is in custody or is charged with a serious offence not allegedly committed in the course of their duties, and a failure to suspend without pay would bring discredit to the reputation of the police service;
- Requiring all members of police service boards complete prescribed training programs, including diversity training;
- Mandating province-wide standardization of education, training and standards for police officers and special constables;
- Providing First Nations with the option to continue with their current policing framework, or to establish their own police service boards in accordance with provincial standards; and
- Amending the Coroners Act to make inquests mandatory when use of force by a member of a police service is the direct cause of a death.
As Bill 175 has only just been introduced, it remains to be seen which proposals will ultimately be adopted and implemented by the province, but significant changes to policing are all but unavoidable. Further updates and information will be provided as the Bill progresses.
If you have any questions about this topic or any other questions relating to workplace law, please do not hesitate to contact a Mathews Dinsdale lawyer
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