It will scrap the laundry list of functions that can be outsourced and clarify those policing functions that must be provided by a member of a police service. When the people call in an emergency, a police officer will show up. We will not compromise on that. Keeping families secure and communities safe is job number one for our government. Ensuring that police have the resources, tools and supports to protect people and rid our streets of crime is an essential part of that job, and strengthening the trust between police and the public is perhaps the most important step the government can take toward achieving this goal.
By repealing and replacing the Police Services Act, , the Ontario Special Investigations Unit Act, , and the Policing Oversight Act, , and repealing the Ontario Policing Discipline Tribunal Act, , we have set a new course to develop better and stronger policing legislation and oversight that works for police officers and the people of Ontario. My parliamentary assistant, the honourable member for Brampton South, will touch on some of the specifics of the bills shortly. Week after week, month after month, policy after policy and through a bill such as the proposed Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act, , our government has established unwavering support and confidence in the police and their dedication to keeping us safe.
I am proud of the support that Bill 68 is already receiving from the policing community. We are opening a new era in policing in this province, where front-line policing personnel are supported, where public confidence in the police is strengthened and where police oversight is streamlined and more accessible to the people of Ontario. Our government will never waver on our promise to keep our streets and communities safe, stand up for victims and hold criminals accountable for their actions.
This proposed bill, if passed, will work for our front-line police, our community and policing partners, and the people of Ontario. The Attorney General and her team were partners in drafting Bill I would now like to turn it over to my colleague the Attorney General to provide some additional comments on the Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act. The Acting Speaker Mrs. Lisa Gretzky : I recognize the Attorney General. Caroline Mulroney: I would like to thank the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services for touching on these very important matters.
I also wanted to remind the House that I will be sharing my time with my colleague the member for Brampton South, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, as well as my parliamentary assistant, the member for Durham. I am proud to serve alongside the minister and all of my colleagues on this side of the House, where we see front-line police officers of Ontario as everyday heroes in our community. I also want to thank the member for Hastings—Lennox and Addington for his insightful contributions as this bill was developed, and of course for his ongoing commitment to keeping communities safe across Ontario.
It is a commitment that began long before he ran for office, one that he honoured every time he put on his uniform as a member of the OPP. This is how the people of Ontario see these brave women and men, and now they have a government that shares this same vision and commitment to public safety. In every corner of Ontario, from our biggest cities to our smallest towns, our police officers are there for us, keeping us safe.
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The rule of law depends on having professional, dedicated and responsible police who will help us uphold that law. On this count, Ontario is very fortunate indeed. Our government firmly believes that police oversight should not be anti-police. Public trust is essential, in fact, for police to do their work to keep communities safe. Unfortunately, the previous Liberal government and its NDP supporters allowed this trust to erode in a system that did not work for front-line officers or the people they serve and protect.
When the previous government looked at our police officers, all it apparently saw were potential offenders. Far too often, the Liberals saw our police as part of the problem.
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We listened to our front-line officers when they raised serious concerns about Bill That is why, when we were elected, one of our first orders of the business was to pause implementation of this reckless, unbalanced legislation so that we could fix it in a way that continues to ensure oversight but does so in a way that is balanced, respectful and fair. We took the time to listen to the concerns of all sides, including the points of view of critics of our police services. We committed to restore transparency and fairness to a system that had previously left the police in and the people in the dark for too long.
Madam Speaker, we see the police, the people and their government as partners in public safety. A police oversight system that is difficult to understand and navigate does not contribute to the people of Ontario want, which is safer communities to call home.
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Unlike the Liberals and the NDP, who supported their Bill , we recognize the bravery and heroism of our front-line police officers. I want to thank Justice Tulloch for his thorough review of a contentious and controversial topic. Our bill recognizes that there is a deficit of trust in police within some communities. As my colleagues have stated and will continue to state today, our bill is sensitive to these concerns. But our proposed legislation makes our first principles clear: Our police deserve our respect.
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One of the most important improvements our bill makes is to streamline and strengthen the SIU process. A concern that we have heard over and over from both families and police is that the SIU wastes time and energy investigating the wrong things, that these investigations take too long and that these investigations drain resources that could be focused on stopping actual criminal activity.
The SIU process is also opaque. Both police and the public are left in the dark for months on end with no answers. The unavoidable outcome is that trust is constantly eroded. We are addressing this problem. Under the proposed changes, the SIU would be required to conclude an investigation within days or provide an explanation if that benchmark cannot be met.
This would streamline the investigative process and maximize the impact of investigative resources on public safety in our communities. If a police officer tries to stop a suicide attempt but is unsuccessful, he or she is treated like a suspect. If a police officer is on the scene of a crime when someone else on the scene suffers a heart attack, then they are treated like a suspect even if there was no contact between the police officer and the heart attack victim. If a police officer responds to a violent crime and tries to perform CPR but is unable to save the life, he or she is treated like a suspect.
This is not what the SIU should be doing. To accomplish this, the bill proposes to clarify the mandate of the SIU. Notification would continue to be required in set circumstances we would all reasonably expect, such as when use of force, custody or detention, or motor vehicle pursuits result in serious injury or death. In addition, notification will be required in all cases when there has been a discharge of a firearm at a person or a reported sexual assault. This would help ensure SIU resources are focused where they should be: on possible criminal activity.
This proposed change would meet the intent of ensuring both independent oversight and that SIU investigations are focused on those cases where there is a real risk of possible criminal conduct. Madam Speaker, I can remember meeting a young OPP officer in my community who told me how concerned he and his colleagues were about the current oversight system and its lack of transparency. He questioned how we arrived at such a system in which he was left with a feeling that everyone in Ontario could be considered innocent until proven guilty, except for our police officers.
Action was needed to ensure the trust and confidence of the police and the people are restored in Ontario. We are proposing this action with the legislation proposed by the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services. These measured and practical changes follow the same direction we took late last year to fix the problem that front-line officers faced when attempting to administer life-saving treatments of naloxone to individuals in crisis.
We listened to the concerns of police and health care advocates and passed a new regulation to recognize this everyday reality of police work in our communities. This legislation would also recognize that there needs to be a clear route for filing public complaints against law enforcement and commencing an independent investigation if necessary. The proposed name change would clarify the purpose of the independent agency, as recommended by Justice Tulloch.
When there are concerns with policing in this province, Ontarians should know where to turn. Under this proposal, we would have a single independent body, the Law Enforcement Complaints Agency, reviewing all public complaints about police. The inspector general would deal with regulation of policing, while the SIU would be maintained. Police disciplinary hearings would be heard by independent adjudicators, as recommended by Justice Tulloch. This streamlined approach would eliminate the need for the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, which would be wound down after an appropriate transition period.
Together, these changes deliver on our promise to fix the policing legislation, to restore the balance and to ensure the oversight system is transparent, fair and effective while addressing the very significant delays that currently exist in the system. In return, we only see it as right to treat them with the fairness and the respect they deserve. We urge the members of this House to put public safety first and support this bill, which would restore respect to police and strengthen their partnership with the people they are asked to protect.
The proposed legislation would focus investigative resources where they are needed, on criminal activity, within a police oversight system that is transparent, fair and effective.
Hansard Transcript Feb | Legislative Assembly of Ontario
This approach is designed to rebuild the confidence of the people and the police in an oversight system that will ultimately help build safer communities on a shared foundation of restored trust and accountability. I look forward to hearing from my colleagues the member for Brampton South, the parliamentary assistant to the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and my parliamentary assistant, the member for Durham.
Lisa Gretzky : I recognize the member for Brampton South. Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria: Just before I begin, I want to say how honoured I am to be serving as parliamentary assistant to Minister Jones in community safety and correctional services—and for the amazing work the Attorney General has done on this piece of legislation as well. I think sometimes we take that for granted.
Trust and confidence are the bedrock of effective policing, Madam Speaker. The people of Ontario must trust the police to keep our communities safe, and police officers must have confidence that they are supported in doing their jobs by the people they serve and the governments that those same people elect. We have heard the concerns from police associations; from police officers, who every day go out and do dangerous work; from their families, who want to see them return home safe; and from citizens.
He said that challenges in the previous legislation made it more difficult for the police to do their jobs and that our proposed changes intend to empower police across Ontario to ensure community safety. Since day one, the government has worked hard to earn the confidence of the people, and of our police officers, by saying what we mean and doing what we say. Our approach to policing was defined last summer with our response to escalating gun and gang violence. We unveiled the first piece of a multi-phased guns-and-gangs strategy to help law enforcement protect innocent families from the menace of gun- and gang-related violence, and to introduce measures to ensure that violent gun criminals are denied bail, taken off the streets and placed behind bars, where they belong.
We as a government are investing in new infrastructure and technology to support law enforcement. We are replacing aging Ontario Provincial Police facilities with nine new state-of-the-art detachments across this province. Whether you are in an OPP cruiser, an ambulance or a helicopter combatting an out-of-control forest fire, the Public Safety Radio Network is the backbone of emergency response across Ontario. It is now a full generation out of date. Last November, the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services announced a regulatory change to empower officers to administer naloxone to save a life without second-guessing whether they could face a criminal investigation should the victim die or suffer a serious injury.
It did not make sense to us that a trained police officer should face unfair repercussions for trying to save a life, especially when paramedics and firefighters were not subject to the same oversight for taking identical action. On the cannabis file, we acted quickly to fill a void left by the federal government by ensuring that police have the appropriate training and that municipalities are given the financial support they need to protect Ontarians from the impacts of legalized cannabis.