The provincial government passed an omnibus police bill – Bill 175 – in March, making changes to police services and police oversight agencies. Bill 175 includes the Ontario Special Investigations Unit Act. The SIU Act was supposed to take effect over the Canada Day long weekend.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford stated the new legislation is on hold until “a full and thorough review” is conducted.
The SIU Act is, in part, a response to 129 recommendations by Ontario Court of Justice Michael Tulloch in his Report of the Independent Police Oversight Review. Justice Tulloch was tasked with reviewing provincial police oversight bodies, including the Special Investigations Unit, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission.
Justice Tulloch’s recommendations include measures to increase transparency of investigations into police misconduct and specific watchdog legislation distinct from the Police Services Act. A major recommendation urges the release of information about incidents where the SIU decided not to lay criminal charges against officers involved.
Other recommendations include: publicly releasing past SIU directors’ reports; data collection – related to gender, race and mental health status among other things – by oversight agencies; the creation of a regulatory body for police officers similar to what exists for other professions; and increased training in the areas of mental health, domestic abuse and anti-racism.
The SIU Act adopted some of Tulloch’s recommendations: it provides watchdogs with the power to lay criminal charges, to impose penalties on police officers who do not cooperate with investigations and it expands investigative powers of watchdogs, including the ability to investigate former officers.
The Ontario government has not stated a specific plan to revisit the SIU Act.
For an in-depth look at civilian police oversight, please visit the CCLA’s Talk Rights post here: https://ccla.org/polices-police-civilian-police-oversight-canada/.
This blog post was written by a CCLA Volunteer. Opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCLA.