Ontario Human Rights Commission

Report Released Indicates Racial Profiling by Toronto Police

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Last week, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (“OHRC”) released an interim report regarding racial profiling and racial discrimination by Toronto Police Services.

The OHRC is the provincial statutory agency responsible for improving human rights and preventing systemic discrimination in Ontario.

According to the OHRC, the data showed that Black citizens are overrepresented in cases where Toronto Police use force that results in serious injury or death. In its report, the OHRC expressed its grave concern about racial profiling and discrimination of Black people by Toronto Police Services in use of force incidents, stops, questioning and searches, and charges laid.

A COLLECTIVE IMPACT

The OHRC began its inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black citizens by the Toronto Police following concerns raised by Black communities in Toronto, and more specifically following the gunpoint arrest of four black teenagers in 2011 (known as the Neptune Four) and the shooting death of Andrew Loku in 2015.

The report, entitled “A Collective Impact” (the “report”), examined qualitative and quantitative data from the Special Investigations Unit (an agency that investigates police incidents that involve injuries or death) between January 1, 2010 and June 30, 2017 in Toronto.

According to the report, between 2013 and 2017 a Black person was 20 times more likely than a White person to be involved in a fatal shooting by the Toronto Police.

In Toronto, Black people account for 8.8% of the population. According to the report, between January 1, 2013 and June 30, 2017 in Toronto, Black people were found to be over-represented in the following circumstances:

  • police use-of-force cases (28.8%);
  • shootings (36%);
  • deadly encounters with police (61.5%); and
  • fatal police shootings (70%).

Renu Mandhane, the OHRC’s chief commission, stated:

A Collective Impact is the latest in a body of reports, findings and recommendations – over the past 30 years – that point to persistent concerns about anti-Black racism in policing in Toronto. Our interim findings are disturbing and call for immediate action.

The report also exposed that there was a lack of legal basis for police stopping Black citizens, inappropriate searches, and unnecessary charges or arrests.

TORONTO POLICE RESPONSE TO THE REPORT

Toronto Police Services Board (“TPSB”) and Toronto Police Services (“TPS”) have acknowledged the frustrations amongst Black citizens in Toronto who have suspected they were treated differently based upon the colour of their skin.

Toronto Police Services Board and Toronto Police Services released a joint statement responding to the interim findings, which read as follows:

We recognize that there are those within Toronto’s Black communities who feel that, because of the colour of their skin, the police, including when it comes to use of force, have at times, treated them differently. We understand that this has created a sense of distrust that has lasted generations. … The Board and the Service acknowledge that no institution or organization, including the Toronto Police, is immune from overt and implicit bias. … Nevertheless, we acknowledge that a unique obligation is required from those of us who are charged with upholding the law and protecting all of our city’s people.  And, while we may be confronting these challenges with resolve today, we are committed to doing even better. … We are ready, willing and actively doing the hard work that is required of us.

 WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

The OHRC will continue to study SIU data and look for patterns in use of force incidents and examine connections between age, mental health, socio-economic status, and sex.

The OHRC will also examine the Police’s culture, training, policies, procedures, and accountability mechanisms. Lastly, the OHRC will hold focus groups with Black communities in Toronto and connect with police leaders, officers, associations, and organizations to better understand all of the issues.

The OHRC will prepare a final inquiry report likely to be completed in 2020, which will include all findings, recommendations, and any next steps.

In the interim, the OHRC has made the following requests:

  • That TPS and TPSB acknowledge that racial disparities raise serious concerns;
  • That TPS and TPSB support the OHRC’s inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black citizens;
  • That TPSB require the TPS to collect and publicly report on race-based data on all stops, searches, and use of force incidents;
  • That Ontario implement recommendations in the Report of the Independent Police Oversight Review;
  • That the City of Toronto implement recommendations in the Toronto Action Plan to Confront Anti-Black Racism.

We will continue to follow any developments that arise regarding the OHRC’s report and findings and any response to the noteworthy report, and will inform of these developments in this blog.

In the meantime, if you are facing criminal charges, contact the experienced and skilled Oshawa criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We take all steps needed to protect your best interests, both immediate and long term. For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour phone service and a free confidential consultation.  Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help.

Hunger Strike Over Conditions at Correctional Centre in Lindsay Continues for Second Week

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

An inmate at the Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay, Ontario is now in his second week of a hunger strike. Other inmates at the facility say that the hunger striker (Harley Guindon of Oshawa) is the last of approximately thirty prisoners who stopped eating last week to protest what they say are unsanitary conditions and poor medical treatment at the facility.

Alleged Conditions at the Correctional Centre

In a telephone interview with DurhamRegion.com, Mr. Guindon said that he is not ready to end his strike yet. He claims that the correctional facility has a number of health and safety issues including “rusty cell vents” that blow “air that is not sanitary” and an air intake vent that has not worked in years.

The president of OPSEU Local 368, representing 700 members including correctional workers says that he supports the prisoners’ complaints about sanitation and medical care, but disagrees about their method of protest.

The union president said that air quality at the facility has “always been a concern” for both inmates and staff. Mold has been a common issue due to lack of ventilation.  The local raised its own concerns with management years ago and advocated for two additional cleaners to be hired, as there is currently only four cleaners for the whole facility, which takes up ten acres.

Medical care at the facility has also been a cause for concern for the local, and the union agrees with inmates about what they consider to be a lack of medical staff at the facility. The correctional centre has cut one of their doctors from the staff, and the facility now has only one physician for more than 1000 inmates.

Jail Conditions Across Ontario

Prison conditions across Ontario have been in the news recently, with the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) travelling around the province and meeting with inmates and municipal leaders, and the Ontario Ombudsman also conducting an independent investigation.

We will continue to monitor developments with both the OHRC and the Ombudsman investigations and will blog about prison conditions as more information becomes available.

At Affleck & Barrison our firm and its predecessors have been representing clients charged with criminal offences and protecting their rights since 1992.  Our Oshawa criminal lawyers are extremely knowledgeable and are experienced at defending a wide range of charges.  Call us at 905-404-1947 or contact us online for a free consultation. Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help.

OHRC: Every Inmate in Northern Ontario Jail has Mental Health Issues

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) continues to shine a slight into prison conditions across the province. A recent visit to a prison in Northern Ontario by the OHRC’s Chief Commissioner has revealed that all inmates in the facility are suffering from mental illness, addictions, or cognitive impairment.

OHRC Visiting Facilities Across Ontario

As we’ve previously discussed, since her appointment in 2015, Renu Mandhane, the Chief Commissioner, has made a point of visiting jails across the province. The Commissioner has recently been visiting jails in Northern Ontario and speaking to First Nations community members, municipal leaders, and inmates.

Concerning Conditions

One of the Commissioner’s most recent visits was to the provincial jail in Kenora, Ontario, approximately 200 km east of Winnipeg. The Commissioner recognized that management at the Kenora prison has done a good job of limiting the use of solitary confinement. At 10%, the facility has some of the lowest rates of segregation use in the province.

However, 90% of the inmates at that facility are First Nations and, according to the Commissioner, all are suffering from mental health issues, including addiction or various forms of cognitive impairment. Following her visit, the Commissioner indicated several other areas of concern, including the fact that many of the inmates come from remote First Nations communities north of Kenora, and many may never have left their home communities prior to their arrest. Cultural disruption is a big factor, with the Commissioner noting that English is often not the first language of these inmates, and that their families are often hundreds of kilometers away, precluding regular family visits.

The Commissioner has said:

There’s never really a light shone on these places and when we think about who is most vulnerable, you have to include the prison population, especially when we know that First Nations, racialized people and people with mental health disabilities are over-represented.

The Commissioner also met with members of the public at the Ne-Chee Friendship Centre to discuss, among other things, the despair that might be a contributing factor in the suicide epidemic that has been sweeping northern First Nations communities. Further discussion about poverty, homelessness, and affordable housing is expected in the aftermath of the visit.

The Ontario Ombudsman is also investigating practices in prisons across Ontario.

We will continue to update our readers about ongoing concerns with prison conditions in the province, and will blog as further information becomes available.

The Oshawa criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison we have been protecting client rights since 1992. Our skilled team has significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s legal interests.  We are available 24 hours a day, and offer a variety of payment options, including Legal Aid. Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help. Call us at 905-404-1947 or contact us online for a free consultation

Ontario Human Rights Commissioner Calls for End to Solitary Confinement in Ontario Prisons

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

We’ve previously blogged about prison conditions in Ontario. The issue is now back in the news following the visit of the Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) to the Thunder Bay District Jail and her subsequent calls for an end to segregation in the province’s correctional facilities.

The Chief Commissioner, Renu Mandhane, visited the jail in early October where she met Adam Capay, a 23-year old inmate Aboriginal inmate from the Lac Seul First Nation in Northwestern Ontario, who had been held in solitary confinement for more than 1,500 days (or 4 years). Mr. Capay had been detained in a basement, alone, in a plexiglass cell, where the lights were on for 24 hours a day. Mr. Capay had no conception of whether it was day or night.

After meeting Mr. Capay, the Chief Commissioner reported that Mr. Capay appeared to be suffering from memory and speech problems as a result of the conditions in which he was being held, and that he showed signs of self-harm.

Mr. Capay’s confinement began in 2012, when, while serving time at the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre, he was involved with a violent confrontation with another inmate, resulting in that inmate’s death. Mr. Capay was subsequently charged with first degree murder, and sent to solitary confinement. He was 19 years old at the time. To date, Mr. Capay has never had a trial, has never been convicted of anything, and has not been sentenced for a crime. Yet, he has been locked in solitary confinement for 52 months.

The Ontario Human Rights Commission on Solitary Confinement in Correctional Facilities

In January 2016, the OHRC provided the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services with written submissions on the use of segregation (i.e.- solitary confinement) in correctional facilities in Ontario.

Following the Chief Commissioner’s visit to the Thunder Bay Correctional Centre, the OHRC made supplementary submissions with additional commentary. The new report indicates that there is a “gross reliance on and overuse of segregation” in Ontario’s correctional facilities and that these issues are “systemic”. Statistics indicate that between October and December of 2015, more than 4,100 Ontario inmates spent at least one day in segregation. More than 1,500 of these inmates, or almost 40% of them had a “mental heath alert” on file.  Almost 25% of segregations exceeded two weeks (15 days being the UN recognized threshold for torture).

Public Outrage about the Conditions Mr. Capay was Held In

Since Mr. Capay’s circumstances were brought to light, there has been significant public outrage. The Globe and Mail’s editorial board wrote a scathing editorial criticizing the “inhuman treatment” of Mr. Capay, and asking “those who allowed this to happen” to be held accountable. The editorial board pointed out, among other things, that

The only thing Ontario prison officials haven’t done to this poor man is shackle him upside down on a dungeon wall. But they may as well have. Mr. Capay is arguably being tortured by the state. The sensory deprivation caused by constant light is an acknowledged torture technique, and the United Nations says that holding a person for more than 15 days in solitary is in itself a form of torture.

Indeed, as the board points out, the Supreme Court of Canada has previously acknowledges that any delay longer than 30 months between the laying of a criminal charge/charges and the completion of trial is a violation of the accused person’s fundamental Charter right to trial within a reasonable period of time. Mr. Capay’s 1,500 day incarceration is approximately 100 times longer than the 15 day window that the UN considers solitary confinement constituting torture.

The Response

Premier Wynne has stated that she is “very troubled” by the circumstances, and that “it is very disturbing and shouldn’t happen”, but would not comment on whether anyone would be held accountable for what happened to Mr. Capay, saying only that the Liberal government would conduct an additional review of solitary confinement in the province.

David Orazietti, the province’s Correctional Services Minister has since committed to ensuring no other Ontario inmate is held in conditions with 24-hour per day light, and that all inmates have daily access to medical care.

It remains to be seen what the final outcome of this shocking mistreatment of an inmate will be. Since the Chief Commissioner shed light on Capay’s mistreatment, he has been moved to a different cell with lights that can be dimmed, and access to a day room and a television.

We will follow developments in this matter and blog about updates as they become available.

At Affleck & Barrison our firm and its predecessors have been representing clients charged with criminal offences and protecting their rights since 1992.  Our lawyers are extremely knowledgeable and are experienced at defending a wide range of charges.  Call us at 905-404-1947 or contact us online for a free consultation. We offer 24-hour phone service for your convenience, and a variety of payment options, including Legal Aid. Whatever the nature of your offence, we can help.