Ontario rewriting Police Services Act, seeks Hamilton input

Twenty-six years after the Police Services Act was written, the Ontario Ministry of Correctional Services and Community Safety is working on a rewrite.

Consultations begin Feb. 18 as part of provincewide review

Ontario Public Safety Minister Yasir Naqvi, with former Hamilton police chief Glenn De Caire in the background, spoke at a consultation in September about controversial street checks. (Kelly Bennett/CBC)

The Ontario government wants to talk to the public about policing before it rewrites the Police Services Act, which became law more than 25 years ago.

The Ministry of Correctional Services and Community Safety is launching a campaign to get input from Ontarians, both in person at consultations around the province and through an online survey, as it prepares to rewrite it.

The act is the blueprint that governs practices such as how officers engage with people who are vulnerable and how police services should be accountable and transparent to the public. 

"The world has changed fundamentally in the past 25 years and so has policing," Community Safety and Correctional Services Minister Yasir Naqvi said in a paper about the reform effort.

"More crime is now happening online, like fraud and child exploitation; technology is playing a greater role in both society and policing; and police are increasingly being called on to assist with issues that range from mental health and addiction to homelessness, marginalization and stigma."

Police oversight and accountability

One key component the province wants to clarify is the role that police services boards play in overseeing police forces.

The province says it wants to "enhance accountability and strengthen civilian governance" and improve the effectiveness of the boards. 

The role of police oversight boards came into sharp focus last year as boards in Ontario squared off against police chiefs over the who got to decide the way police should handle carding or street checks. 

'Provincial framework for First Nations policing' 

Another area the province wants to improve is in police interactions with people who have mental health or addiction issues. 

It says it will also develop a "provincial framework for First Nations policing" with an eye on equity and cultural responsibility. 

The process will help forces "clarify police duties, modernize training programs and deliver services using a range of public safety personnel," the announcement from the ministry says. 

The Hamilton consultation is at 7 p.m. on Feb. 24 at the Chedoke Arena. 

Public meetings will be also held in Cobourg, London, Newmarket, Thunder Bay, Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto. Find more schedule details here.

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