August 15, 2017
Hon. Yasir Naqvi
McMurtry-Scott Building, 11th floor
720 Bay Street
Toronto, ON M7A 2S9
Independent Police Review Director
655 Bay Street, 10th Floor
Toronto, ON M7A 2T4
Special Investigations Unit
5090 Commerce Boulevard
Mississauga, ON L4W 5M4
Ontario Civilian Police Commission
250 Dundas Street West, Suite 605
Toronto, ON M7A 2T3
Dear Minister Naqvi, Directors McNeilly and Loparco, and Chair Lamoureux:
Re: Dafonte Miller and Implementation of Justice Tulloch’s Recommendations
We, the undersigned, urge the Government of Ontario, the Special Investigations Unit (“SIU”), the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (“OIPRD”), and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (“OCPC”), to immediately and transparently implement recommendations made by the Honourable Justice Michael Tulloch in his Report of the Independent Police Oversight Review submitted to the Ministry of the Attorney General in March 2017.
For decades, we have been deeply concerned about instances of police misconduct, including racial discrimination, and the failure of the Government and oversight bodies to effectively hold police accountable for misconduct and broader systemic discrimination. These concerns persist today and are urgent, especially in light of persistent anti-Black racism and the ongoing colonization of First Nations, Métis and Inuit (Indigenous) Peoples.
The gratuitous, brutal, and unprovoked attack on Black teen Dafonte Miller by Toronto Police Service (“TPS”) Constable Michael Theriault and his brother Christian Theriault highlights a number of police oversight issues that require immediate action:
- The SIU was not notified for four months;
- The TPS and the Durham Regional Police Service (“DRPS”) have expressed contradictory positions on their responsibility to notify the SIU. This raises serious issues about their broad duty to cooperate with the SIU;
- The SIU cannot refer officer conduct matters to the OIPRD, like whether there was racial discrimination or an unlawful detention, unlawful arrest or unnecessary use of force; and
- The OIPRD cannot initiate its own investigation into officer conduct matters without a public complaint.
These concerns are specifically addressed in Justice Tulloch’s report. He recommends that there be clarity around SIU notification and the duty to cooperate. He also recommends that the SIU be permitted to refer conduct matters to the OIPRD and the OIPRD be permitted to initiate investigations in the public interest even if no complaint is filed [See, for example, recommendations 5.7, 5.8, 9.6 and 7.11]. The experience of Dafonte Miller emphasizes the need for the Government to introduce the necessary legislative changes.
The SIU, OIPRD, and OCPC must also prioritize implementing those recommendations that do not require legislative change or significant additional resources. This includes:
- Developing and delivering mandatory social and cultural competency programs for their staff, in partnership with Indigenous and other community organizations [See recommendations 4.3 and 10.1];
- Collecting race-based and other demographic data on matters falling within their mandates [See recommendations 11.1 and 11.2]; and
- Forming meaningful and equitable partnerships with Indigenous organizations [See recommendation 10.2].
We cannot forget what led to Justice Tulloch’s review: police discrimination against Indigenous Peoples, African Canadians, and people with mental health disabilities, all of which have reduced public trust and fueled calls for an overhaul of the oversight system.
While Dafonte Miller is one individual, his treatment at the hands of police illustrates a broader, systemic problem. We expect the Government of Ontario and the oversight bodies to publicly report on the current state of the implementation of Justice Tulloch’s recommendations, and we expect public consultation on forthcoming legislation.
Noa Mendelsohn Aviv, Acting Executive Director, Canadian Civil Liberties Association
Jennifer Chambers, Executive Director, Empowerment Council
Julian Falconer, Principal, Falconers LLP
Sharmaine Hall, Executive Director, Human Rights Legal Support Centre
Caitlyn Kasper, Staff Lawyer, Aboriginal Legal Services
Howard F. Morton, Q.C., Law Union of Ontario
Dr. Alok Mukherjee, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Department of Criminology, Ryerson University
Aseefa Sarang, Executive Director, Across Boundaries: An Ethnoracial Mental Health Centre
Knia Singh, Osgoode Society Against Institutional Injustice
Anita Szigeti, President, Law and Mental Disorder Association