In Ontario, the Special Investigations Unit or “SIU” is the agency that investigates deaths, serious injuries and allegations of sexual assault involving police in Ontario. It is governed by a piece of legislation called the Police Services Act. At the conclusion of each investigation conducted by the SIU, the director prepares a report summarizing the key evidence relied upon in the decision to either lay criminal charges against a police office or to clear the officer of wrongdoing. The agency has recently come under fire because of the lack of transparency, particularly in cases where no charges are laid. Reports prepared by the director of the SIU are only seen by the Attorney General, and no one else. SIU reports are generally not made public because, among other things, they contain information protected under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (“FIPPA”).
Recently, this issue has made headlines due to the public outcry following the shooting of Andrew Loku by a Toronto police officer last summer. The SIU recently cleared the officer, ruling that he was justified in the killing. That decision sparked a two-week protest by Black Lives Matter outside police headquarters in Toronto, calling for the release of the report and demanding an inquest into Mr. Loku’s death. Last Tuesday, after Attorney General Madeleine Meilleur admitted that she had not yet read the report despite weeks of heated protested surrounding Mr. Loku’s death, the Black Action Defence Committee called on Premier Kathleen Wynne to dismiss the Attorney General.
Many people are calling for the public release of the details of the SIU’s investigation and handling of the evidence in order to restore public confidence in the oversight of police services in Ontario. It is in the interests of justice and accountability that SIU reports into police shootings be made public.
If you have questions about this or any other criminal law matter, please contact the criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.