This Letter was sent to Police Chief Bill Blair by the chair of the Ontario Human Rights Commission and a copy made available to Share.
Dear Chief Blair:
Re: Community Engagement Procedures
I am writing further to the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) deputation to the Toronto Police Service Board (TPSB) on April 2, 2015 in regards to the revised Policy and Procedure on Community Engagements.
You will recall, at the TPSB meeting on April 2, 2015, I said on behalf of the OHRC:
The goal of the revised Policy and Procedure – to eliminate discrimination from Community Engagements – will not be realized without significant changes. To prevent racial profiling, the Policy and Procedure must:
• Guide and limit officer discretion to stop and question people.
• Require that officers tell the people they stop about their right to leave and not answer questions, as much as possible in the circumstances.
• Demonstrate effective monitoring and accountability including race-based data collection to identify racial bias.
• Provide transparency through receipts; and
• Immediately purge carding intelligence data, already collected, that lacks a non-discriminatory explanation.
Our commitment to working with the TPS and TPSB to address racial profiling is unquestionable, and our position on the need to eliminate racial profiling has been clear throughout our extended participation in the development of the TPSB’s April 2014 Policy, on the PACER Community Advisory Committee, and through written and oral deputations.
Our statutory mandate under the Human Rights Code calls upon us to “make recommendations on any provision, program or policy that in (the Commission’s) opinion is inconsistent with the intent” of the Code, and to this end, we have always provided our best advice.
It is clear, however, that our recommendations have not been incorporated into the Procedure in any meaningful way and even the Board’s revised Policy indicates a retreat from earlier, more progressive positions. We believe that these recent events are an impediment to our continued engagement with you on this issue – until there is clear evidence of a willingness by the TPS to make substantive change to the Procedure to deal with the corrosive effects of racial profiling.
Deputations made at the April 2 TPSB meeting did not support the new direction of the TPSB and the TPS. This should be indication enough that the direction is inherently flawed.
I urge the Toronto Police Service and the Toronto Police Services Board to set aside the revised Procedure and Policy on Community Engagements and to take a fresh look at how to resolve these critical issues as quickly as possible. It continues to be our strong opinion that the new Procedure must address all of the critical issues we have raised before it is implemented.
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss these concerns. Please do not hesitate to contact my office.
Interim Chief Commissioner
Ontario Human Rights Commission