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.

Police Accountability is part of the Public Safety program. You can find more information about it on its main program page.

Read CCLA’s Submissions to Justice Frank Iacobucci’s Review of the Use of Lethal Force by Toronto Police

By on July 24, 2014

On March 29th, 2014, CCLA General Counsel and Executive Director Sukanya Pillay made submissions to Justice Frank Iacobucci, regarding his review of the use of lethal force by the Toronto Police Service (TPS).

Click here to read CCLA’s submissions to Justice Iacobucci.

The submissions dealt with several pertinent issues, including the role of police in a democratic society; TPS policies, procedures, training, and equipment; psychological assessment and evaluations of TPS officers; and police supervision and oversight.

CCLA Awaits Release of Police Encounters with People in Crisis Report

By on July 23, 2014

July 24, 2014 – The CCLA eagerly awaits the release of Justice Iacobucci’s report tomorrow, Police Encounters with People in Crisis. The CCLA made written submissions, found here, and Executive Director and General Counsel Sukanya Pillay, participated in a round-table discussion with stakeholders. The report is the culmination of the Independent Review looking in to the issue of police use of force and interactions with people suffering from mental illness.

Right to Protest Under Fire in Ukraine

By on January 23, 2014

Earlier this year, CCLA, in conjunction with partners from nine other countries around the globe, released a report on threats to the right to protest around the world.  The report, Take Back the Streets, documented case studies from ten countries that demonstrate the constraints being placed on the right to peacefully protest.  Unfortunately, the patterns documented in the report are once again in the news.  There are reports that protesters in the Ukraine are experiencing serious violence at the hands of police and the government has recently passed extremely restrictive anti-protest laws.

CCLA welcomes ongoing investigation into weekend police shooting

By on December 16, 2013

The CCLA is concerned by the news of a police shooting in Toronto’s Queen subway station.  Very few details have been released, and we welcome the news that the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) is investigating.  We will continue to monitor the situation, and will be specifically looking for information regarding why the police thought such an exceptional level of force was necessary and justifiable.

CCLA has in the past spoken out about the need for increased focus on de-escalation, mental health training, and advocated for robust and responsive independent investigation mechanisms to provide oversight in situations such as these.  Although more information is needed before pronouncing judgment on this most recent shooting, previous incidents have placed the police use of force model into question.  After Sammy Yatim’s death on a Toronto street car this summer we published a piece on what to ask for after police shootings – it is deeply unfortunate that those words have, once again, become relevant:

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.

    1. 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.
    2. 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.
    3. 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.
    4. If there are reasons to believe that criminal charges should be brought against [any] police officer …, 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.
    5. 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.

CCLA Calls on Police Services Board to Stop Racial Profiling and Carding

By on December 13, 2013

On November 18th, 2013, CCLA participated in a special community meeting held by the Toronto Police Services Board on racial profiling and carding.  The Board heard from 23 deputations on the Toronto Police Service’s PACER report, and on the response to it by Board Chair Dr. Mukherjee.

CCLA’s submissions called for an end to the practice of carding (or “street checks”) and the implementation of concrete measures to address race-based harassment.  Concrete measures should include:

  • a policy that sets out specific guidelines a to when police may stop and question individuals;
  • a policy that recognizes power imbalances between police officers and the individuals they stop;
  • accountability tools such as providing a carbon copy of (most of the) data recorded to the individual stopped; and
  • the creation of an independent external civilian oversight body.

To read CCLA’s submissions to the Board, click here.

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

By 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 Homea 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

Panelists:

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.

Toronto officer convicted of G20 assault: What did CCLA have to say?

By 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.

 

 

What the public had to say about expanded Taser use

By 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.

CCLA responds to Ontario government’s expanded Taser use

By 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.”

Background 

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/

 

 

What to ask for after police shootings?

By 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.