Fighting for reasonable limits to police powers, and accountability for abuse.

Police officers are vested with an enormous amount of responsibility, and an enormous amount of power to carry out those responsibilities. Police are given powers to stop, detain, question, search and arrest individuals. They are issued firearms and can use force, including lethal force, in carrying out their duties.

CCLA fights to ensure there are clear and strong limits on police powers to detain, search, arrest, use physical force, and otherwise curtail individual rights.  We also fight for effective oversight and accountability mechanisms for police, to ensure that those who wield power and enforce the law must also be subject to the law.

A Reflection of The Health of Our Democracy: Police Accountability

Canadians come into contact with the police every day—whether as victims, witnesses, suspects, or simply as members of the public. How we are treated by the police, the rights we are afforded in these interactions, and the remedies we can expect when our rights are violated by those with power is a reflection of the health of our democracy.
Police have unique powers in our society, including the ability to use force.

These policing powers demand great scrutiny and oversight from the public in order to ensure that individuals and communities are treated with respect and dignity.

To effectively ensure police and other government actors do not abuse the powers they have been given over citizens, it is essential to have reliable, transparent systems of accountability in place.

Anti-Black Racism in Canada’s Criminal Justice System

Everyone has unconscious biases, often based on stereotypes, that they use to inform their thought processes and decision-making. Racial profiling also occurs on a systemic level – when an unjustifiable level of scrutiny and differential treatment becomes ingrained into an organization’s culture and operations. All these forms of racism exist within Canada’s criminal justice system.

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Our 2019 Supreme Court Win

In May 2009, Bela Kosoian entered a subway station to travel to university. She took the descending escalator, and like many subway users, did not hold onto the handrail. A police officer saw her and ordered her several times to hold onto the handrail, and pointed to a nearby sign. She refused and would not identify herself when she reached the bottom of the escalator.  When she tried to leave, the police officer and a colleague took her by the elbow into a holding room. She was handcuffed with her arms behind her back. Her bag was searched without her consent and she was charged with failing to hold the handrail and for hindering the police officers in their duties.

The restraint, the excessive restraint, the detention — all of it was unlawful and liable for damages.

Ms. Kosoian was acquitted of the offence and brought an action against the police officer, his employer and the subway system, arguing that her arrest was unlawful and unreasonable. 

Police have no blanket powers of arrest. At the Supreme Court hearing, our lawyers argued that police cannot make up rules and then arrest you for not following them.

The Court agreed. The Supreme Court of Canada held that a reasonable police officer would not have considered failing to hold the handrail to be an offence.

In carrying out their duties, police officers may be required to limit the rights and freedoms of people. There is an undeniable risk of abuse of power. This is why there must always be a legal basis for police officers actions.

 

In a free and democratic society, police officers may interfere with the exercise of individual freedoms only to the extent permitted by law..
Our Recent Cases and Reports

View our latest work and activity.

Strip Searches in Ontario Prisons

Ontario's law gives provincial prisons carte blanche to strip search any prisoner, at any time, for no reason. We believe the law is unconstitutional.
VIEW CASE

Racial Profiling

Canadian police detain thousands of racialized persons in suspicionless roadside stops each year. These police powers enable racial profiling and we believe they are unconstitutional.
VIEW CASE

Detasking Toronto Police Report

CCLA Partners on Report, entitled Rethinking Community Safety – A Step Forward For Toronto, urging City of Toronto to shift resources and responsibilities away from the police and towards alternative crisis response and social support mechanisms.
VIEW REPORT

Strip Searches in Ontario Prisons

June 21, 2022

Racial Profiling

Waterfront Toronto contracted with Google’s sibling Sidewalk Labs to create a smart city project in downtown Toronto. This project would be a sensor-laden neighbourhood, collecting data on people who live, work, or visit the area. Losing the ability to be a face in the crowd, and so much of our privacy, is what’s at stake. So we launched a legal action to reset the project.

Detasking Toronto Police

Waterfront Toronto contracted with Google’s sibling Sidewalk Labs to create a smart city project in downtown Toronto. This project would be a sensor-laden neighbourhood, collecting data on people who live, work, or visit the area. Losing the ability to be a face in the crowd, and so much of our privacy, is what’s at stake. So we launched a legal action to reset the project.

Our Work in Police Accountability

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CCLA at the Supreme Court to ensure meaningful adjudication of Charter claims

October 4, 2022
The CCLA is at the Supreme Court of Canada today arguing that courts should not…

Death in Vancouver highlights lethality of “less lethal” weapons

August 25, 2022
On Monday morning Chris Amyotte, a 42-year-old father of seven from Winnipeg and member of…

Human Rights Tribunal Finds Police DNA Sweep was Discriminatory

August 23, 2022
Earlier this week the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the Ontario Provincial Police (“OPP”)…

CCLA Intervening in Challenge to Sex Work Laws

August 16, 2022
The CCLA recently filed its written argument in Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform…

CCLA argues against expanded police detention powers at Supreme Court

August 10, 2022
CCLA is intervening in a case before the Supreme Court to argue that the police…

La lutte contre le profilage racial se poursuit devant les tribunaux et dans les communautés

July 7, 2022
POUR DIFFUSION IMMÉDIATE LA LUTTE CONTRE LE PROFILAGE RACIAL SE POURSUIT DEVANT LES TRIBUNAUX ET…

Racial Profiling on Trial: an Update from the Frontlines

June 28, 2022
Last year the CCLA became involved in a constitutional challenge to the laws that grant…

Canadian Civil Liberties Association launches constitutional challenge to Ontario’s strip search law

June 20, 2022
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and a woman with personal experience have launched a major…

Trial Begins in Major Constitutional Challenge Targeting Racial Profiling

May 30, 2022
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is joining with a diverse group of civil society…

Applying the Charter Outside of Canada

May 16, 2022
Does the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms apply to the actions of law enforcement…

SCC Rules on Constitutionality of Post-Arrest Searches of Houses

April 12, 2022
On Friday April 8 the Supreme Court released its ruling in R v Stairs, a…

Protecting the Right to Silence and Ensuring Meaningful Remedies When Police Violate the Charter

February 14, 2022
CCLA is appearing before the Supreme Court of Canada to reinforce the limits of state…

CCLA Launches Latest Tool to Combat Carding & Racial Profiling

December 13, 2021
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) today released their next salvo in the fight against…

CCLA Intervenes in Court Challenge Against Racial Profiling

July 20, 2021
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is intervening in a constitutional challenge before the Superior Court…

CCLA to Appear Before Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in Police Background Checks Case

June 29, 2021
Thairu Taban and Josslyn Mounsey were hired by Metrolinx as Transit Safety Communications Operators. They…

CCLA to Appear Before the Supreme Court in Police Search and Seizure Case

June 11, 2021
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has been granted leave to intervene in the upcoming…

CCLA’s Submissions on Bill 251

May 20, 2021
On May 13, 2021, the CCLA provided written submissions on Ontario’s Bill 251, the Combating…

CCLA and PPMP Release New Report Examining Covid-19 Policing in the Second Wave

May 11, 2021
Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Policing the Pandemic Mapping Project released a new report…

Update on CCLA’s Challenge to Ontario’s New Regulation

April 17, 2021
"We will take yes for an answer and put this legal challenge on pause, with…

CCLA to Challenge Ontario’s “Black Friday” Regulation

April 17, 2021
“We have today retained counsel and are preparing to go to court in the coming…

Premier Legault—It’s Time To Drop The Curfew

March 23, 2021
The CCLA is speaking out against Premier Legault’s unjust Quebec curfew.
Commuter reading the paper while waiting for a train

Race and Criminal Injustice Report: Q and A by CCLA Special Advisor, Anti-Black Racism, Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah

March 10, 2021
CCLA Special Advisor on Anti-Black Racism, Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, recently sat down for a Q+A…

Open Letter to Federal Leaders: Do not Expand Anti-Terrorism Laws in Name of Anti-Racism

February 22, 2021
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

Better Safe Than Sorry is the Motto of a Police State

February 19, 2021
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

CCLA on Ontario’s Stay-at-Home Order

January 14, 2021
“As the Ontario Government announced a 28-day stay-at-home order, what concerns us the most is…

Rethinking Community Safety

January 12, 2021
A Step Forward for Toronto

CBSA Oversight and Ebrahim Toure

November 26, 2020
We renew our calls for the establishment of an independent, civilian-led oversight commission with a…

COVID-19 Fines Will Likely Make Pandemic Worse

November 20, 2020
On November 7, Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, held an unusual press…

A Civil Liberties Take on Canada’s Second Wave of COVID-19 Emergency Orders

November 19, 2020
During the first wave of COVID, we were quite critical of a number of the…

Guess Who’s Coming to Thanksgiving Dinner, Quebec?

October 12, 2020
The Quebec government has put the police on the frontlines of the pandemic and placed…

Quebec Doubles Down on Its Punitive Approach to COVID

October 5, 2020
Quebec’s new COVID restrictions are simultaneously strict and bewildering. Millions of Quebeckers in the ‘red…

Inaccurate, Unreliable, Dysfunctional: A Glimpse Into Ontario’s Now-Defunct COVID Database for Police

September 30, 2020
In the spring the Ontario government launched a database of COVID test results, with the…

Montreal makes history to promote transparency and protect privacy.

September 24, 2020
You probably missed the landmark decision by a major Canadian law-maker this week, striking a…

Montreal Surveillance Tech Moratorium Presser

September 18, 2020
CCLA urges Montréal City council to protect their constituents from identity and personal data theft.

Montreal Councillor Rotrand’s Initiative to Mandate Accountability & Transparency

September 17, 2020
We support Councillor Rotrand's initiative to mandate public accountability and transparency for surveillance technologies purchased,…

Ontario Government Revokes Emergency Order

August 17, 2020
The Ontario government has ended police access to a COVID-19 database after CCLA and partners…

CCLA & Partners Launch Action to Stop Ontario Government’s Disclosure of COVID Status to Police

July 16, 2020
The CCLA has joined with Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS), the Black Legal Action Centre, and…

Letter to Bill Blair

July 8, 2020
Subject: Ban on use of facial recognition surveillance by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

Stay Off the Grass: COVID-19 and Law Enforcement in Canada

June 23, 2020
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

CCLA to Winnipeg Police: Police, and Target Practice in Our Neighbourhoods

June 3, 2020
We have been contacted by Gabriela Aguero, a local resident who was understandably panicked by…

CCLA Writes to NL: Reconsider Travel Ban and Bill 38

May 12, 2020
Pursuant to a Special Measure issued by the Chief Medical Officer of Health (Special Measures…

CCLA Questions Ottawa Policing

April 24, 2020
Ignorance of the law is ordinarily an invalid defence. But nothing is ordinary about a…

CCLA and Partners Question Government on Decision to Share COVID-19 Test Results with Police

April 23, 2020
Last week police services across Ontario quietly got access to a new database – a…

Too Many COVID Charges, Too Many Tickets, Too Many Fines.

April 21, 2020
Too many COVID charges, too many tickets, too many fines. It’s a public health crisis,…

Pandemic Policing Has Taken a Punitive Turn in Ottawa

April 7, 2020
Being a mature democratic country with a constitutional bill of rights means that instant, mass…

CCLA to Ottawa: Stop Overpolicing During a Pandemic

April 6, 2020
Firstly, we are receiving a large number of reports from the public that your police…

CCLA to Attorney General: Concerns About Carding Under Emergency Order

April 3, 2020
As you know concerns about carding, racial and social profiling led to a serious crisis…

Carding in a Pandemic

April 2, 2020
While we certainly understand the enormity of the pandemic, and of the province’s task in…

CCLA to CACP: Transparency in Emergency Police Powers is Needed

April 2, 2020
I am writing to urge that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police take an…

Victory at The Supreme Court: A Fight for Everyone’s Right to Privacy and Equality (R v. Le)

May 31, 2019
Victory! Today, the Supreme Court rendered a monumental decision recognizing that police carding in a…

CCLA at the Supreme Court: The Worst Carding Case in Canadian History?

May 30, 2019
On Friday May 31st, the Supreme Court of Canada is going to release its decision…

Manitoba Homicide Stats Generating More Heat Than Light

May 8, 2019
Now what?  It’s darkest before the dawn, to be sure, but what does Winnipeg or…

CCLA at the Supreme Court: What Happens When the Police Arrest You for a Non-Existent Offence?

April 18, 2019
Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. It may be hard to believe, but earlier…

CCLA at The Supreme Court: When Can The Police Arrest You to ‘Protect’ You?

March 21, 2019
How far can police officers go when initiating a “protective” arrest? Can innocent protestors be…

CCLA Urges Toronto to Delay Purchase of Gunshot-Location Technology ShotSpotter

July 23, 2018
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has serious concerns regarding the impact of new police surveillance…

We Need Better De-Escalation and Non-Escalation Responses to People in Crisis

July 19, 2018
On Wednesday, July 18, 2018, officers from the Dryden Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) tasered a…

INCLO Report Release: Defending Dissent: State Practices that Protect and Promote the Right to Protest

June 27, 2018
INCLO and the IHRC launched a report today that provides practical guidance on how law enforcement…

Ontario’s Policing Reform Legislation Can Still be Improved

March 2, 2018
The Canadian Civilian Liberties Association has long advocated for policing reform in Ontario. For decades,…

CCLA Addresses Committee on Impaired Driving Laws (Bill C-46)

March 1, 2018
On September 18, 2017, CCLA Director of Public Safety, Rob De Luca, made submissions on…

G20 Civil Case Against Toronto Police Board Begins Today

February 5, 2018
This week, trial begins in a long-awaited civil case against Toronto Polices Services for its…

CCLA Announcement: Coalition Calls for Implementation of Loku Inquest Recommendations

October 3, 2017
The tragic shooting death of Andrew Loku should never have occurred. It took place within…

Senior Police Officer Gets Light Sentence For G20 Misconduct

June 15, 2016
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…