Associations worried about Safer Ontario Act; security sees opportunity
The Ontario government caused quite the stir with the announcement of how it plans to modernize its policing framework.
Marie-France Lalonde, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and Attorney General Yasir Naqvi introduced the Safer Ontario Act in October, a bill that they say, if passed, would “represent the largest policing and public safety transformation in a generation.”
Changes include a new Missing Persons Act, strengthening oversight by creating a new Inspector General of Police, making it possible to suspend officers without pay and redefining police duties, just to name a few. The new legislation would also enable First Nations to choose their policing service delivery mode, including the option to come under the same legislative framework as the rest of Ontario.
The reforms are in response to the recommendations made in the Independent Police Oversight Review conducted by Justice Tulloch and released in April 2017.
“The Safer Ontario Act is about shifting to a collaborative approach to community safety and well being planning,” said Lalonde in the live webcast introducing the act.
Work on this bill has been going on for almost five years, Naqvi added. “In our view this is most significant transformation of policing in all North America and puts Ontario in a leadership role.”
Lalonde said the government is not looking a privatizing policing.
Mike McCormack, the president of the Toronto Police Association, told Blue Line there “isn’t much” about the new act that is encouraging for police officers.
“No one is saying we don’t want oversight,” he said, “But when the government is talking about increased accountability and oversight, they’re saying they’re going to privatize that function. Private entities are driven by profit… it’s not about providing a public service. And what is really concerning, from a policing perspective, is an erosion of police officers’ rights.”
McCormack says the association will be dialoguing with the government and “major clarification and amendments” would have to take place before he entertains support of the regulations.
Similarly, Bruce Chapman, president of the Police Association of Ontario, said PAO was one of the first organizations that came out to say it supported the vast majority of Tulloch’s recommendations, but that the Safer Ontario Act is problematic.
“The government wants enhanced oversight and expanded oversight for the policing sector, yet it’s allowing privatization of some police duties, which takes away some of the accountability you demand from the police,” he told Blue Line. “One of the biggest concerns when we polled Ontarians was that they do not want their private information in the hands of a private security company.”
He added PAO is “prepared to work with the government to ensure that it’s fair for everyone.”
The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police released a statement, saying it welcomed the act.
Special Investigations Unit Director Loparco said the agency “wholeheartedly welcomes the SIU having independent legislation, a recommendation that has been made by our organization numerous times over the years. Not only will updated and separate legislation provide the Unit with the ability to conduct more rigorous and independent investigations, it will also allow for more transparency and accountability for policing and oversight as a whole. As well, new legislation will increase the SIU’s ability to adapt more quickly to circumstances as they change.”
Tim Saunders, the chief business development officer at G4S Canada, said there is “absolutely an opportunity for all stakeholders to win in this.”
He noted that G4S is in 122 countries and has experienced when similar partnerships work and there are synergies with police, and also when the boundaries have been pushed too far.
“We believe there are efficiencies in this financially and we would never recommend any kind of public safety concession at the cost of efficiency,” Saunders said.