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.
Police Accountability is part of the Public Safety program. You can find more information about it on its main program page.
By Dora Chan
on October 21, 2013
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 is an award-winning account of what he and many others experienced when they were arrested and detained during the G20 Toronto Summit in June 2010. Starting this fall, Praxis Theatre will take this play on a Canada-wide tour to:
- Whitehorse, Yukon: Yukon Arts Centre, Sept 12-15 2013
- Vancouver, British Columbia: Firehall Arts Centre, Sept 24 -Oct 5, 2013
- Toronto, Ontario: Aki Theatre, Oct 16 -27, 2013
- Montréal, Quebec: Mainline Theatre, Oct 30 – Nov 2, 2013
- Ottawa, Ontario: Arts Court Theatre, November 13 -16, 2013
If you’re interested in getting involved and participating in the play, check out this call for volunteers here!
CCLA is helping Praxis Theatre to pull together panel discussions on broader issues facing civil liberties in several of the cities that the play will be hosted in. See below for details about the panels in Vancouver and Toronto:
TORONTO PANEL DETAILS
Post-show Panel Discussion on Civil liberties and protest in post-G20 Toronto
Where: Aki Studio Theatre @ Daniels Spectrum – 585 Dundas Street East.
When: Tuesday, October 22, 2013. Show @ 8pm panel @ 9:30pm.
Moderated by: Praxis Theatre Artistic Director Michael Wheeler
Abby Deshman – CCLA: Director, Public Safety Program
Abby first joined the CCLA as the Law Foundation of Ontario’s Pro-Bono Articling Fellow and stayed on as the Project Director of the Fundamental Freedoms Project. She graduated from the University of Toronto Law School with an Hons JD in 2008, and obtained an LLM from New York University in 2010. She is currently involved in all aspects of CCLA’s advocacy and educational programs.
Prior to joining the CCLA she worked with numerous local and international non-governmental organizations, including the United Nations High Council for Refugees in Kenya and Human Rights Watch’s Terrorism/Counterterrorism division in New York. She was also a case worker in the law school’s International Human Rights Clinic, where she worked primarily on international human rights and counterterrorism issues, including the Clinic’s intervention before the Supreme Court of Canada in the Khadr case.
Her previous work has also taken her to Nicaragua, Bangladesh, Belize and Peru. Although she loves Toronto, she is concerned about the lack of sun available during Canadian winters, and is therefore constantly on the lookout for inexpensive flights to combat incipient vitamin D deficiencies.
Jan Borowy – Cavalluzzo
Jan Borowy’s practice areas include labour relations, human rights, pay equity and professional regulation. Jan brings to her practice a longstanding commitment to the promotion of workers’ rights and human rights. Her experience gives her an understanding of the importance of a clear strategy in union negotiations, campaigns, strikes, organizing and educational programs.
Jan is the former Research Co-ordinator at the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union, where her work focused on a campaign for fair wages and working conditions for garment home-workers. She further developed her advocacy skills as the Worker’s Rights Community legal worker at Parkdale Community Legal Services. At law school, Jan developed an expertise in Aboriginal law and issues facing Aboriginal workers.
Jan’s experience within the firm has included close involvement in the representation of private sector and public sector workers before labour arbitrators, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, the Pay Equity Tribunal and the Ontario and Canadian Labour boards. Jan is a member of the Canadian Association of Labour Lawyers and the Canadian and Ontario Bar Associations.
Tommy Taylor – Writer/Performer: You Should Have Stayed Home
Tommy is a theatre artist, activist and NGO fundraiser living in Toronto. Recently Tommy was assistant director/video designer on The Belle of Winnipeg (Dora Winner), adaptor/director of Dear Everybody at the CanStage Festival of Ideas and Creation and director of Kayak at The SummerWorks Festival. He is a graduate of the Centre for Cultural Management (University of Waterloo/ CCCO), The Vancouver Film School and Humber College’s Community Arts Development Program.
Tommy was arrested (but never charged) and detained during the 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto. He has since turned his account of the experience into You Should Have Stayed Home. The show is on a cross-Canada tour for Fall 2013, playing in Whitehorse, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
VANCOUVER PANEL DETAILS
Post-show Panel Discussion on Civil Liberties, Activism and Surveillance
Where: Vancouver, BC – Firehall Arts Centre, 280 E Cordova St.
When: Thursday, October 3, 2013, following the 8pm performance
Moderated by: Neworld Theatre Founding Artistic Producer Camyar Chai
About the Panelists
Micheal Vonn is a lawyer and has been the Policy Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association since 2004. She has been an Adjunct Professor at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in the Faculty of Law and in the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies where she has taught civil liberties and information ethics. She is a regular guest instructor for UBC’s College of Health Disciplines Interdisciplinary Elective in HIV/AIDS Care and was honoured as a recipient of the 2010 AccolAIDS award for social and political advocacy benefitting communities affected by HIV/AIDS. Ms. Vonn is a frequent speaker on a variety of civil liberties topics including privacy, national security, policing, surveillance and free speech. She is an Advisory Board Member of Privacy International. bccla.org
Harsha Walia is a South Asian activist, writer, and researcher based in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories. She has been active in grassroots social movements for over a decade, including with No One Is Illegal, Women’s Memorial March Committee for Missing and Murdered Women, Radical Desis and more. She was one of the many leading up to both the Anti-Olympics Convergence and the G20 Protests in 2010, facing arrests and trumped charges at both. Harsha has been named one of the most influential South Asians in BC by the Vancouver Sun and Naomi Klein has called Harsha “one of Canada’s most brilliant and effective political organizers.” Her first book Undoing Border Imperialism is forthcoming in November 2013 by AK Press. Find her @HarshaWalia.
Greg McMullen is a litigation associate with Branch MacMaster. He focuses on class action work concerning privacy and access to information. Greg was one of the organizers of the BCCLA’s Legal Observer Program during the 2010 Winter Olympics, which trained more than 400 citizen-observers to record police interactions with the public (and especially with protesters) during the 2010 Games. He is also on the Board of Directors of the BC Civil Liberties Association, and authored the BCCLA’s Electronic Devices Privacy Handbook.
Tommy Taylor is a theatre artist, activist and NGO fundraiser living in Toronto. Recently Tommy was assistant director/video designer on The Belle of Winnipeg (Dora Winner), adaptor/director of Dear Everybody at the CanStage Festival of Ideas and Creation and director of Kayak at The SummerWorks Festival. He is a graduate of the Centre for Cultural Management (University of Waterloo/ CCCO), The Vancouver Film School and Humber College’s Community Arts Development Program. Tommy was arrested (but never charged) and detained during the 2010 G20 Summit in Toronto. He has since turned his account of the experience into You Should Have Stayed Home. The show is on a cross-Canada tour for Fall 2013, playing in Whitehorse, Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.
By Peter Goffin
on September 13, 2013
Yesterday, Toronto Const. Babak Andalib-Goortani became the first police officer convicted of criminal charges stemming from the 2010 G20. Const. Andalib-Goortani had caught on video by a bystander, beating protestor Adam Nobody at the demonstration three years ago. Nobody was already on the ground, restrained by several other officers.
As a leading voice on police accountability in Canada, CCLA has spoken to several media outlets about Andalib-Goortani’s conviction.
“[Charges against police] are a fundamental part of the accountability process,” CCLA Public Safety Program Director Abby Deshman told The Toronto Star. “They are oftentimes the only response to police misconduct, so disciplinary charges are the meat of where police discipline happens.”
Abby also appeared in a TV interview with CTV News to comment on the story.
The 2010 G20 was a major turning point in the way Canadians perceive their relationship with police. The police response to protests constituted the largest peacetime mass arrest in Canadian history. In the years since, CCLA has worked tirelessly to bring to light, and learn from, police conduct during the G20 Summit which we have determined was, at times, disproportionate, arbitrary and excessive.
In 2010, we released a preliminary report on policing and security at the G20, based on first-hand observations from more than 50 human rights monitors.
We also broke down the events of the G20 protests, arrests, and aftermath in an awesome infographic that you can check out right here.
This fall, G20 detainee Tommy Taylor is taking his play You Should Have Stayed Home on a cross-Canada tour. The show details Taylor’s experience as a bystander caught up in the mass arrests and sent to a packed cell in the Eastern Avenue Detention Centre. Ten per cent of all funds raised by the play will be donated directly to the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
For a comprehensive collection of CCLA’s work on the G20, click here.
By Peter Goffin
on August 28, 2013
Yesterday morning, the Ontario Government announced it would expand the use of Tasers by police across the province. CCLA responded swiftly with a media release detailing our concerns with the decision. Our position was quoted by several news sources including CBC, The Toronto Sun, Global News, and The Globe and Mail.
But we also asked our followers and friends on social media to weigh in with their own thoughts on the issue. Here’s what some of you had to say:
“[Increased Taser use is] neither good nor bad. Like any tool it is how it is used and the professionalism of the user #tasers.”
-Mike Hanlon (@HanlonMike)
“Must we be faced with choosing between two evils?? Police’s strongest weapon should be communication #taser”
-Patti G (@truthnottasers)
“If you read @cancivlib’s release, a concern is misuse & higher standards of use. More complex than simple choice.”
-Marco Campana (@marcopolis)
“Why do they feel this is necessary in a country where crime rate[s] are low and falling? I fear that Canada is becoming a police state.”
-Susan Melissa Chivers (via Facebook)
How do you feel about the increased deployment of Tasers amongst Ontario police? Tweet your opinions to us @cancivlib, or post them to our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/cancivlib.
By Peter Goffin
on August 27, 2013
On August 27, 2013, the Ontario government announced its decision to expand Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW) deployment amongst the police forces in the province. As a leading voice on rights and freedoms in Canada, CCLA responded to the announcement with the following media release:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CCLA: Government focus should be on police de-escalation techniques, not expanded Taser use
Toronto – August 27, 2013 - The Canadian Civil Liberties Association is concerned about the Ontario government’s decision to authorize expanded Conducted Energy Weapon (CEW) deployment. CCLA urges police forces instead to invest in de-escalation training, and mental health and disability crisis response teams, rather than additional weaponry.
“CCLA has long-standing concerns about the safety and appropriate uses of CEWs,” said Sukanya Pillay, interim General Counsel. ”We recognize that in certain extreme cases there may be legitimate law enforcement uses of CEWs, for example to prevent imminent harm or death. However, CCLA is also aware and seriously concerned that CEWs have been misused in the past. Government focus should be on police receiving improved training and building skill sets to de-escalate crises, rather than expanding weapons deployment.”
Ontario’s use of force standard for CEW deployment is already more permissive than the standard recommended by the Braidwood Commission which investigated the death of Robert Dziekański. The Commission greenlighted the use of CEWs only in cases of imminent risk of serious harm or injury, and only when de-escalation or crisis intervention techniques would not be effective. CCLA has repeatedly urged the Ontario government to adopt the higher Braidwood Commission standard.
CCLA is further concerned about the impact this decision will have on individuals with mental health and addictions issues. These individuals who, studies suggest, are more likely to be Tasered, are also at higher risk for serious injury and death in connection with Taser use. We are also concerned about those individuals with non-visible disabilities – such as hearing loss – who may be mistakenly perceived as not complying with police orders.
There have been recent reports of abusive Taser use, Taser-related injuries and death in Ontario. In June 2013, a Coroner’s Inquest into the death of Aron Firman, a man with schizophrenia who died of cardiac arrhythmia after being Tasered, recommended “additional and meaningful awareness training for officers dealing with persons affected by mental illness”, and examining existing crisis response teams with a view to their expansion where they would “enhance response and support to individuals with mental health challenges.” Just last year, a Toronto police officer was demoted for pushing his Taser into the crotch of a handcuffed prisoner, and threatening to Taser him in the genitals. In April 2013, an Ontario judge berated police officers for their violent and unjustified pre-emptive Tasering of a mental health patient.
“CCLA will be closely monitoring expanded CEW deployment,” said Pillay. “In our view, resolution through de-escalation should be the goal. Increasing deployment of CEWs opens the door to increased use and misuse of CEWs – these should not become default weapons – use of CEWs can only be permissible in very strict circumstances as set out by the Braidwood Commission. We must always be mindful that Tasers are harmful weapons and the risk of excessive and unjustified force resulting in unnecessary serious injury is real.”
While CCLA has never advocated for an outright ban on CEWs, the organization has for years insisted that these weapons be subject to appropriate use of force restrictions, specifying effective limits on CEW use, training, reporting and oversight.
CCLA has specifically urged the Ontario government to take additional measures to prevent abuse of CEWs – including government adoption of he Braidwood use of force standard for CEWs – before authorizing expanded deployment of CEWs. After extensive review of CEW usage, the Braidwood Inquiry recommended that CEW use be restricted to situations where “the subject is causing bodily harm or the officer is satisfied, on reasonable grounds, that the subject’s behaviour will imminently cause bodily harm” and an officer is “satisfied, on reasonable grounds, that no lesser force option would be effective, and de-escalation and/or crisis intervention techniques would not be effective.” The Ministry’s current use of force threshold is considerably lower than the Braidwood standard. CCLA also recommended additional and particularized mental health and disabilities sensitivity training for police officers who carry Tasers.
Previous CCLA work and briefs on Tasers includes:
April 7, 2011: “CCLA Urges RCMP to Change Policy on Use of Tasers against Children,” http://ccla.org/2011/04/27/ccla-urges-rcmp-to-change-policy-on-use-of-tasers-against-children/
February 2, 2010: “CCLA Seeks Meeting with Minister of Justice on National Standards for Tasers,” http://ccla.org/2010/02/02/ccla-seeks-meeting-with-minister-of-justice-on-national-standards-for-tasers/
January 25, 2010: “CCLA Brief: A Measured Approach to Conducted Energy Weapons,” http://ccla.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/2010-01-25-CCLA-Brief-re-National-CEW-Policy.pdf
August 19, 2009: “CCLA Pushes for Measured CEW Policy in Saskatchewan,” http://ccla.org/2009/08/19/ccla-pushes-for-measured-cew-policy-in-saskatchewan/
January 9, 2008: “CCLA to Ontario’s Minister of Community Safety Re: TASERS,” http://ccla.org/2008/01/09/ccla-to-ontarios-minister-of-community-safety-re-tasers/
By Abby Deshman
on August 14, 2013
It is time to revisit the use of force model that is part of police training. It just does not work. The death of Sammy Yatim, who was holding a knife, alone on a streetcar, and was shot nine times by a police officer, should lead us to that conclusion. Tragedies often bring to light systemic flaws. The Lac Megantic derailment may bring about improvements in railway safety and the death of Dudley George at the hands of the Ontario Provincial Police at Ipperwash has led to changes in policing practices. We should not need accidents and violent deaths to trigger critical changes, but we often do. As the community and family of Sammy Yatim mourns, we need to vigorously pursue unanswered questions, and think about how to prevent other deaths.
Emotions run high in the context of police shootings and there is nothing to be accomplished by ignoring the rigours of the processes put in place to investigate, but we should demand that they be followed expeditiously.
- We should demand absolute co-operation from the Toronto Police Service with the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). In the past, there has been friction and disagreements between the SIU and the TPS; it is time that they be put aside. We should demand that the TPS disclose all information promptly and co-operate fully with the investigation. Chief Blair has committed to that course of action and we should hold him to that commitment.
- We should demand transparency. The public has the right to know what has happened here. A shooting death at the hands of the police epitomizes the ultimate power of the State. It is frightening to imagine ourselves at the hands of mistreatment by the police whom we are encouraged to trust. That is why there is a duty to inform the public, and speak substantively to the incident.
- We should ask for a timely investigation from the SIU. The process must be thorough and fair, but it must be done efficiently. Too often, delays prevent meaningful accountability.
- If there are reasons to believe that criminal charges should be brought against the police officer who shot Yatim, they should be laid and due process should be afforded to the charged officer, just as it should be against any other accused. The rule of law requires equality before the law and no preferential treatment is to be afforded to anyone. That does not mean, however, that people should be treated more harshly or that the circumstances, mitigating and aggravating, ought not to be put to a judge. Everyone is entitled to a day in court – police officers as well.
- Finally, we should demand that there be a review of the training standards and the use of force model. It could very well be that this untimely death was the result of an individual’s mistake and bad judgement. But this is one death too many. Incidents like this should not happen, and we owe it to ourselves to look deeply, honestly, and thoroughly at how they can be prevented. The use of force model goes only in one direction. It trains the police officer to escalate the confrontation with each level of defiance from the suspect. It ends with “shoot to kill.” Errors are too costly. The use of force model must be re-evaluated.
We do not know what could have been done to prevent the tragic death of Sammy Yatim, but we should demand a rigorous and efficient process to discover the truth.
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on July 4, 2013
CCLA has provided submissions to the Toronto Police Services Board, urging the Board to put a stop to the police practice of random “street checks” (also known as carding). In addition, CCLA objected to delays in the provision of data and reports on these topics to the Board, given that this information is needed for transparency and accountability with respect to police practices and concerns about racial profiling.
CCLA has been before the Toronto Police Services Board numerous times in the past year to address concerns about racial profiling, and continues to call for an end to random stops, and better tools for transparency and accountability with respect to police conduct.
To read CCLA’s latest submissions, click here.
By Noa Mendelsohn Aviv
on April 25, 2013
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has filed submissions with the Toronto Police Services Board to address racial profiling, and has set out the Association’s position on “street checks.” In its submissions, CCLA states that police stops, demands and recording of a person’s identity without an investigative or legitimate policing purpose (“community engagement” does not qualify as a legitimate purpose) is an unjustified and unconstitutional violation of individuals’ fundamental rights. CCLA also demands that if individuals are stopped and questioned by police, they should be provided with a copy of information recorded about them (subject to reasonable exclusions). The receipt proposed by the Toronto Police Service (in Form 306) does not sastisfy this. CCLA has addressed the Board previously on the issue of racial profiling, street checks, and Form 306.
To read CCLA’s submissions, click here.
By Abby Deshman
on April 19, 2013
The CCLA is before the Supreme Court today, arguing that police officers involved in an investigation by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) into the use of force resulting in death or serious injury to a civilian are not entitled to the assistance of legal counsel in the preparation of their duty notes of the incident. Duty notes are notes that are prepared in the normal course of an officer’s day on the job. When there has been a police-involved death or serious injury, witness officers must hand their notes in to the SIU, which is the independent body that conducts criminal investigations into such occurrences. It is essential to the integrity of the investigation and public confidence in the process that officers’ notes be contemporaneous and independent, thereby ensuring that they are accurate and unedited accounts of what occurred. Allowing lawyers to review, edit, or advise police officers on the content of their notes would significantly undermine the independent oversight regime.
To read the CCLA’s factum before the Supreme Court click here.
To read the Court of Appeal’s decision click here.
To read the CCLA’s factum before the Court of Appeal click here.
By Abby Deshman
on April 5, 2013
The Supreme Court has released its decision in Penner v. NRPSB, a case that examined whether a finding by the police complaints system can effectively terminate an ongoing or subsequent civil action. The Supreme Court affirmed that, due significant differences between the two legal procedures, it would be a “serious affront to basic principles of fairness” to allow a finding in a police complaint hearing – which is presided over by the Chief of Police or his or her delegate – end a civil suit suing the police force. The Ontario Court of Appeal had decided that, because the police discipline complaint brought by Mr. Penner had been dismissed, he could no longer pursue his claim in a civil action for damages. CCLA welcome’s the Supreme Court’s majority decision overturning that ruling.
An individual who has been mistreated by the police has a number of remedies:
- A victim may complain to a police complaints system – a system that is designed to discipline police officers for misconduct through employment-related sanctions. In the Ontario police complaints system, the Chief of Police is the one who is ultimately responsible for conducting a hearing into alleged police misconduct.
- A victim may also sue the police for damages through a civil action, claiming that his or her rights have been violated and demanding compensation for the injuries suffered. In a civil suit, an independent judge is the ultimate arbiter of whether or not the police force is liable.
CCLA was extremely concerned about the implications of the Court of Appeal’s judgment, which would have deprived individuals of essential remedies for police misconduct and made the Chief of Police an adjudicator not only of internal discipline matters, but of the civil liability of the police force as well. The resulting conflict of interest would have seriously undermined public confidence in the police complaint and discipline process. The Association intervened in the case to ensure that the avenues for victims to pursue redress for police misconduct remained meaningful and viable.
To read the CCLA’s factum click here.
To read the Supreme Court’s decision click here.
By Cara Zwibel
on April 4, 2013
The CCLA is deeply concerned about the Montreal police force’s use of a controversial municipal bylaw to cut off social protests before they begin, detain individuals en masse, and issue costly tickets to individuals seeking to exercise their constitutionally protected rights.
In May of 2012 Montreal’s City Council adopted amendments to a bylaw that made it illegal to wear a mask during a public demonstration and required demonstrators to provide prior notification to police of their meeting place and route. At that time, CCLA wrote to the Mayor and city councillors expressing our concerns about the bylaw – in particular that these provisions placed unnecessary and unconstitutional restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, both of which are protected under the Canadian and Quebec Charters. While these freedoms may be subject to limits or restrictions, such restrictions can only be put in place where there is a demonstrated compelling and pressing objective and where the measures taken to achieve the objective do not infringe on rights more than necessary. Restrictions similar to those included in the Montreal bylaw were also in a controversial piece of provincial legislation in Quebec, Bill 78 (which subsequently became Law 12). Quebec’s new PQ government repealed Law 12 shortly after coming into power in September, but Montreal’s similar municipal bylaw remains in place.
In a series of recent demonstrations in Montreal, the Service de police de la Ville de Montreal (SPVM) has used the bylaw to “kettle” demonstrators when they fail to provide the police with a route for their demonstration. In three instance in March of 2013, police put an end to demonstrations before they even began and issued hundreds of tickets under the bylaw for over $600 each. In CCLA’s view, individuals should not have to pay to exercise their fundamental freedoms, nor should police engage in mass arrests and detentions of peaceful social protesters. CCLA has written to the Mayor of Montreal urging repeal of the bylaw and to the Chief of the SPVM urging the police to cease engaging in these troubling practices.
Read the CCLA’s letter to the Mayor of Montreal.
Read the CCLA’s letter to the Chief of the SPVM.