Ombudsman calls out Ontario for 'painfully slow' progress on police de-escalation training
Paul Dube says he’s considering second investigation if he doesn’t see progress
Six years after Ontario ombudsman Paul Dube recommended a standardized, mandatory de-escalation training for police across the province, Ontario is no closer to making it happen, he said on Wednesday.
"Progress has been painfully slow," Dube said at a news conference introducing his annual report, which outlines trends and investigations his office handled between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022.
Mandatory de-escalation training is just one of the recommendations Dube made in a 2016 report issued in the wake of teenager Sammy Yatim's death at the hands of police three years earlier.
Though all of those recommendations were accepted by the then-minister, Dube also said he hasn't seen enough action in the years since on issues such as creating a new use-of-force model, revised training and issuing guidance to police services about body-worn cameras.
"We're going to keep raising this. If we have to do another investigation, we will. It's something we're contemplating," he said, adding that he's hopeful about a meeting with the new solicitor general, MPP Michael Kerzner.
Training not standardized: Dube
Former solicitor general Sylvia Jones was asked about Dube's remarks on Wednesday, telling reporters that there "was a lot of work with training, particularly with new recruits" during her tenure but didn't offer any explanation as to why she never pursued a mandatory, standardized de-escalation training.
A spokesperson for Kerzner later told CBC Toronto "all Ontario police officers must complete comprehensive de-escalation and use-of-force training as part of the Basic Constable Training program, there are no exceptions."
But Dube argues what is currently in place does not go far enough — and, critically, varies substantially from city to city.
"There has to be a new model for training, and this training should be standardized," he said.
"Unfortunately, it's not the case... the services that police forces provide can be different from Toronto to Windsor to Brampton."
"This government has had four years to act," Ontario NDP interim leader Peter Tabuns commented, calling the delay "outrageous."
Two blockbuster reports coming this year
At this same press conference, Dube also discussed two investigations his office is in the process of wrapping up: one looking at the oversight of long-term care during pandemic, the other at delays at the Landlord and Tenant Board.
He described them as "two important and extremely complex issues," both of which he hopes to put out in the next few months.
The long-term care investigation was launched in June 2020, after waves of COVID-19 infections and deaths ripped through Ontario's LTC's and after visits by the Canadian military revealed "shocking conditions" in some facilities, wrote Dube.
Dube's probe into delays at the Landlord and Tenant Board, meanwhile, is a systemic investigation that builds on the nearly 2,000 complaints his office has received about the backlogged tribunal.
In recent years, landlords have described months-long delays in eviction hearings, leading to thousands of dollars in unpaid rent.
Critics, meanwhile, have described the LTB as an "eviction machine" that favours landlords and de-prioritizes tenant complaints.
Pushed to say whether he felt the system benefitted landlords or tenants more, Dube said that there is "pain on both sides."
"Some people are facing eviction that could result in homelessness, and on the landlord side, some people facing financial ruin," said Dube.
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Number of complaints approaching pre-pandemic levels
Beyond his preview for upcoming reports, Dube's annual recap lays out overall trends in the more than 25,000 individual complaints his office received — a number that went up by 25 per cent when compared to the previous year, bringing it closer to pre-pandemic levels.
Tribunals Ontario earned the dubious distinction of being the most complained about organization province-wide.
Complaints about closed meetings at municipalities, school boards, and colleges and universities all rose substantially as well.
An uptick in complaints can be read as a good sign, Dube said.
"What I'm encouraged about overall, is that the more complaints we get, the more people we can help," he said.