The Ontario PC Party government is introducing new legislation that it says will streamline the Special Investigation Unit’s (SIU) investigation process and enhance police oversight through an overhaul to the Police Service Act.
The Ford government said in a release Tuesday that its Comprehensive Ontario Police Service Act, 2019, would replace the previous government’s Bill 175, which PC officials said treated police with suspicion and created job difficulty.
Community Safety Minister Sylvia Jones and Attorney General Caroline Mulroney discussed the changes during a press conference at the Halton Regional Police Headquarters in Oakville on Tuesday morning.
“Every day our police do incredible work to keep our families safe,” said Jones in a release.
“Often this work is silent, preventative and unseen. Sometimes it requires police to put themselves in harm’s way. And occasionally it requires police to make difficult life or death decisions in the blink of an eye. But, no matter what, our police can be counted on to protect us.”
If passed, the PC government said the new act will create a window for public complaints which would reduce delays in the investigation process. The release states the act will enable more accountability and ensure the police, government and the Ontario people create a more secure province.
Under the new legislation, the SIU would investigate when police use of force results in serious injury or death, as well as when an officer has shot at a person or if there is a reported sexual assault, and would have to wrap up investigations within 120 days.
“The work OPPA members do every day keeps the people of our province safe. Unfortunately, challenges in the current legislation make it more difficult for the police to do their jobs,” said Rob Jamieson, president and CEO of the Ontario Provincial police Association, in the release.
“The changes proposed by the government (Tuesday) intend to empower police across Ontario to ensure community safety. We look forward to reviewing details of the Bill and participating in the legislative process.”
Some further changes included in proposed legislation included strengthening the independence of the SIU and focus the mandate, strengthen the role of the Inspector General of Policing, better the governance, training and transparency of officers and ensure police are treated with fairness and respect.
The government also introduced changes to the Coroners Act to enhance public safety and improve service delivery.
— With files from The Canadian Press