Human rights must be at the heart of the province's Strategy for a Safer Ontario: OHRC

TORONTO, May 26, 2016 /CNW/ - The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) is calling for a comprehensive new approach to policing in Ontario that addresses long-standing concerns about systemic discrimination.

In a submission to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, the OHRC raises human rights issues that must be dealt with to improve strained relationships between the police, First Nations, Métis and Inuit Peoples (Indigenous peoples), African Canadians, other racialized groups, and people with mental health disabilities and addictions. The OHRC was responding to request for input on the forthcoming MCSCS Strategy for a Safer Ontario including a review of the Police Service Act.

Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane commented, "This is a once in a generation moment to provide input and change the course of policing in Ontario. For nearly two decades, the OHRC has been raising concerns regarding systemic discrimination in policing and suggested ways to eliminate practices that, in too many instances, have become part of the culture of policing in our province. The Ministry needs to act now to ensure that a human rights lens is built into all aspects of policing in this province." 

The OHRC cites racial profiling, discriminatory use of force on people with mental health disabilities, inequity in funding for First Nations police services, and racism and sexism in the investigation of missing and murdered Indigenous women as serious human rights issues that undermine public trust in policing. This lack of trust also has negative implications for the justice system including the risk of non-reporting of crime and non-cooperation with police during investigations.

The OHRC's submission sets out 21 recommendations to end discriminatory policing and rebuild community trust. These recommendations have been endorsed by a broad range of community and advocacy groups (see attached list of quotes) and would lead to improved interactions between police and vulnerable Ontarians, and enhanced public safety and protections for everyone.

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Quotes from organizations

"As Black Law Enforcers, we live and work in two worlds that have allowed us to develop unique perspectives.  From the inside out we fully support the work of the Commission and organizations from our community that are focused on creating transparent, fair, safe, and equitable policing."

Kenton Chance, President, Association of Black Law Enforcers
647- 964-4438

"The OHRC's submissions speak precisely to ongoing systemic discrimination and the need to improve and re-shift the relationship between police and marginalized communities.  Persons with disabilities, including persons with mental health disabilities, addictions, intellectual disabilities and communication disabilities are often targeted for behaviour that is discriminatorily presumed to be different, dangerous or violent, or they encounter barriers when attempting to access police services as victims or witnesses of crimes. Police services rooted in human rights requires appropriate accommodations in its delivery, the eradication of discriminatory and prejudicial conduct based on ableist norms, and a meaningful and accessible enforcement mechanism."

Robert Lattanzio, Executive Director, ARCH Disability Law Centre
416-482-8255

"The Black Action Defense congratulates the Ontario Human Rights Commission for its outstanding role in addressing the issue of Carding before the Toronto Police Services Board and continues to do so in the consultations by the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional services. We are very pleased to endorse this comprehensive package of recommendations in this submission to the Ontario Government for legislative and regulatory reforms. These reforms, if implemented will create an atmosphere in which the rebuilding of public trust in policing services can truly begin."

Kingsley P. Gilliam, Director of Communications, Black Action Defense Committee, 647-267-1774

"These submissions spotlight serious issues that must be addressed for effective, community-based policing. The rights of the most vulnerable must be protected -- and systemic problems contributing to racial profiling and accountability failures must be changed -- the recommendations in these submissions show a way forward."

Sukanya Pillay, Executive Director and General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Media: Jonah Kanter, 416-363-0321 x 225

"The Canadian Association of Black Lawyers (CABL) wholly endorses the Ontario Human Rights Commission's Recommendations supporting an approach to public safety and policing which is also grounded in the protection of the human rights and dignity of our most marginalized and vulnerable communities, including racialized individuals.  CABL welcomes the opportunity to work with the Ministry of Community and Safety and Correctional Services to achieve this goal."

Arleen Huggins, Chair, Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, Advocacy Committee
416-595-2115

"We commend the Ontario Human Rights Commission for its submission on the Strategy for a Safer Ontario. Human rights and public safety are complementary when police forces adopt inclusive approaches that put people at the centre of their policies and practices. This includes a framework for policing that respects human rights principles, values community engagement with diverse populations, and fosters trust among people living in vulnerable circumstances. "

Marie-Claude Landry, Ad. E., Chief Commissioner, Canadian Human Rights Commission
613-943-9118

"There needs to be an interministerial effort to enable people  to get their basic human needs met, which for many will  prevent a crisis that ends up in an encounter with police. Encounters with police can result in a stay in a hospital or a jail -  but in human and economic terms, it costs so much less to provide affordable housing and a decent income."

Jennifer Chambers, Executive Director, Empowerment Council, 416-831-0841 (c)

"Our lawyers help individuals across Ontario who have been arbitrarily stopped, questioned and detained by police – 'caught' when simply buying a sandwich or smoking a cigarette outdoors.  Police stops need to be actually related to a criminal investigation, not a dragnet approach that picks up racialized or vulnerable people as they go about their daily lives."

Kathy Laird, Executive Director, Human Rights Legal Support Centre
416-597-4958, cell: 416-522-5931

"The Ontario Human Rights Commission's submission to the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services re: the Strategy for a Safer Ontario addresses matters of importance to our community in general and specifically speaks to anti-black racism. Most importantly, its recommendations are a rational, informed and comprehensive approach for effective, sustainable and community-based policing."

Alton Brooks, Communications Director, Jamaican Canadian Association,
416-627-‎9477

"The Law Union of Ontario endorses the submission of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The current overwhelming mistrust of the police is in large measure due to the manner in which so called 'community policing' is carried out in diverse communities across Ontario. In particular, the OHRC recommendations with respect to criteria for when an officer may approach individuals in a non-arrest scenario and racial profiling are critical to restoring trust which is in all of our interests as it would result in community cooperation in assisting the police to carry out their responsibilities in preventing and investigating criminal offences."

Howard F. Morton, Law Union of Ontario, (416) 418-6502

"While the issue of carding has particular significance for the African Canadian community, it is in the interests of all racialized communities that our police services treat all Ontarians with equal respect.  As such, we whole-heartedly support the submissions of the OHRC and we urge the Ontario Government to adopt the Commission's recommendations to root out racial discrimination in our law enforcement system."

Avvy Go, Clinic Director, Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, (416) 971-9674

"The Colour of Poverty/Colour of Change endorses the submissions of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, particularly with respect to the critical need for record-receipts for all police civilian encounters.  The receipts should record, at a minimum, the civilian's ethno-racial, gender identity, sexuality, (dis)ability and age, based on self-identification. By collecting such data on a disaggregated basis, we will be better able to track and monitor the differential treatment, if any, towards disadvantaged groups by members of police services." 

Debbie Douglas, Executive Director, OCASI - Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants, and a steering committee member of Colour of Poverty/Colour of Change, 416-322-4950

"The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres support these recommendations that we hope will bring change to policing in Ontario.  Racial profiling and discriminatory community-based policing practises negatively affect urban Indigenous people in disproportionate numbers. Policing that involves responsive community engagement and trust-building are keys to safer communities."

Kelly Patrick, Communications Coordinator, Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, 416-956-7575, Ext. 278

"We are thrilled that the Ontario Human Rights Commission is the collective voice of so many grass roots organizations working in their own neighbourhoods to bring about change. We have consistently been ignored and side-lined by the Police by systemic racialized practices that have disadvantaged us. It is heart-warming to know that the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services is listening and implementing necessary change for the diverse communities of today."

Ranjit Khatkur, Peel Coalition Against Racialized Discrimination (P-CARD)
905-890-7097

Complete list of endorsing organizations:

  • African Canadian Legal Clinic
  • ARCH Disability Law Centre
  • Association of Black Law Enforcers
  • Black Action Defense Committee
  • Campaign to Stop Police Carding
  • Canadian Arab Federation
  • Canadian Association of Black Lawyers
  • Canadian Civil Liberties Association
  • Canadian Human Rights Commission
  • Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change
  • Empowerment Council
  • Human Rights Legal Support Centre
  • Jamaican Canadian Association
  • Law Union of Ontario
  • Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
  • Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres
  • Peel Coalition Against Racialized Discrimination
  • South Asian Bar Association
  • South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario
  • Toronto Police Accountability Coalition

 

SOURCE Ontario Human Rights Commission

For further information: Afroze Edwards, Senior Communications Officer, Ontario Human Rights Commission, afroze.edwards@ohrc.on.ca, 416-314-4528

RELATED LINKS
http://www.ohrc.on.ca

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