Public Safety

The CCLA’s Public Safety Program promotes the importance of civil liberties in relation to policing and the criminal justice system. Our work recognizes the important role that governments play in protecting public safety and advocates for the striking of an appropriate balance between public safety and civil liberties in this context. We believe that governments should treat the promotion of public safety and the protection of civil liberties as mutually reinforcing objectives and approach our public safety work from this perspective.

The CCLA monitors the legal and policy frameworks that govern policing and the administration of justice in Canada to ensure that they are sufficiently respectful of civil liberties and Charter rights. When an issue of concern is identified, action is taken to encourage governments to be more respectful of civil liberties. The CCLA has a long history or promoting civil liberties in the public safety sphere and continues to build upon this expertise through its ongoing efforts in the following four key issue areas:

Police Powers

The CCLA seeks to ensure that police powers are used in a manner that is necessary, proportionate and consistent with constitutional standards. Specific police powers that the CCLA has focussed on include detention and arrest, the use of force, and search and seizure.

Police Accountability

The CCLA seeks to ensure that police services and individual officers are accountable for their actions. Accountability mechanisms, such as police complaints and external investigative bodies must be independent and effective in order to enhance public faith in policing.

Privacy and Policing

The CCLA seeks to ensure that personal privacy is adequately respected by police when they are handling personal information. This is particularly important in the context of procedures that may result in the disclosure of personal information, such as background checks.

Liberty and Due-Process

The CCLA seeks to ensure that the criminal law is flexible enough to allow the judiciary to fashion appropriate and proportionate responses to criminal conduct on a case-by-case basis.

Recent Work

  1. CCLA Urges Restraint in Responding to Recent Tragedies: An Open Letter to Members of Parliament

    The tragic events of last week have led to discussions about new powers for police and intelligence agencies.  CCLA is troubled by this narrative and has written to Members of Parliament urging them to consider what is at stake as new laws and policies are considered in the weeks and months that follow.  Read our [...]

  2. Ottawa event: Ending the Revolving Door of Pre-trial Imprisonment in Ottawa and Beyond

    Join the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Criminalization and Punishment Education Project in Ottawa for a discussion of pre-trial imprisonment in Canada. Due to a serious crisis with our bail and criminal justice system, Canada is imprisoning an increasing number of people who are simply waiting for their day in court.  Pre-trial detention rates [...]

  3. ‘On the Record’ Workshop Series: Spreading the word about police record checks

    The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the John Howard Society of Ontario are teaming up to deliver educational workshops on police record checks across the province of Ontario!

    Police records present numerous barriers for individuals who have had past police contact or justice involvement and who are attempting to find employment, housing and even treatment. Traditionally [...]

  4. CCLA Argues there are Inadequate Safeguards for Person Detained under Ontario’s Mental Health Law

    The case of P.S. v. Ontario concerns an individual detained for over 18 years in a maximum security mental health facility, despite a broad consensus that he does not need to be in maximum security, and significant evidence that he may not need to be in an institution at all and may be eligible for [...]

  5. Appellate decision approves G20 class action

    On August 6, 2014, the Ontario Divisional Court decided that hundreds of individuals who were detained and arrested in mass police cordons during the G20 can have their legal claims heard together as a class action.  Hundreds of those detained at the Eastern Avenue Detention Centre may also have their claims jointly heard as part [...]

Features & Multimedia

Icon of information logo - capital i Key Reports

Canadian Civil Liberties Association Releases Report, “Set Up to Fail: Bail and the Revolving Door of Pre-trial Detention”

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has released a report: Set Up to Fail: Bail and the Revolving Door of Pre-trial Detention, which questions the extensive rise in pre-trial custody populations and identifies the extreme personal and financial costs of current practices in Canadian bail courts.

Download the full report, Set Up to Fail: Bail and [...]


CCLA Board Member Marie-Eve Sylvestre speaks out about “illegal and illegitimate” Montreal arrests

Over the past few days news reports have emerged that the Montreal police service (Service de police de la Ville de Montréal or SPVM) were conducting dozens of “preventive arrests” and countless identity checks and searches  in Montreal streets and subways.  Today, CCLA Board Member Marie-Eve Sylvestre, a professor of law at the University of [...]

Audio Audio

An interview with Alan Borovoy on the new cybersurveillance bill (podcast)

Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow posted this interview on their blog under the headline “Canada’s bull-moose civil libertarian on Canada’s new domestic spying law“. We couldn’t think of a better way to introduce this interview, from TVO’s Search Engine with Jesse Brown.

Listen: Alan Borovoy interviewed by Jesse Brown (Feb 14 2012)

Icon of camera Video

CCLA partners with #G20Romp on post-show panel discussions!

Watch the above video to hear from CCLA’s Director of Public Safety Abby Deshman on G20 Toronto, policing at protests and You Should Have Stayed Home.

CCLA is partnering with Praxis Theatre throughout their National Tour of You Should Have Stayed Home, a performance piece about the largest peacetime mass arrest in Canadian history. Written by Tommy Taylor, the play [...]