Community Crisis Support Service Pilot Project Given the Green Light as an Alternative to Policing

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In response to the distressing death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet last summer who fell off of her 24th floor balcony while fleeing police officers responding to a wellness check at her residence, a pilot project to allow for mental health professionals to act as first responders for non-violent mental health calls was proposed.

Last week, Toronto City Council unanimously passed a proposal to begin a pilot program allowing mental health professionals to act as first responders for non-violent mental health calls instead of police officers. 

Toronto Police Services has seen a 32.4 percent increase in “person in crisis” calls, which refers to those experiencing a temporary breakdown of coping skills.  In 2019, police in Toronto responded to over 30,000 of these non-violent crisis calls. 

Unfortunately, more people with mental illness in Toronto are not receiving the support they require and are suffering as a result.  Occasionally, those in crisis face interactions with the police who act as default first responders for mental health support for those in crisis.  Using law enforcement to address mental health issues has not proven effective and has resulted in systemic discrimination and impacted community trust and confidence in the police.  Research reveals that Indigenous, Black and other marginalized communities, including the 2SLGBTQ+ community, have lost confidence in and feel mistrust with respect to the police service response to those in crisis. 


A survey of Toronto residents was conducted last December regarding perceptions of the need for a community-based crisis response.  According to responses, a greater percent of Indigenous residents and members of the African, Caribbean, and Black community reported a preference for calling a non-police crisis response team in a situation where they are bystanders to the harmful effects of substance use. 

The survey also revealed that most Toronto residents were of the opinion that licensed mental health professionals or paramedics were the more appropriate first responders in a situation that involves a health-related issue, such as one involving the harmful effects or substance use or mental health issues. 

According to Indigenous residents who responded to the survey, they were more inclined to choose licensed mental health professionals or paramedics as first responders for a health-related crisis.  They also preferred a first responder who was an Indigenous Elder/support worker or who had experience with mental health challenges and substance use.

The survey results showed that 67 percent of Toronto residents support the proposal to shift funds from police services to community-based services in response to different situations. 


Toronto City Council has approved the community crisis support pilot project for non-emergency calls for service, which will run from 2022-2025.  It has been proposed that mobile crisis support teams will be made up of a multi-disciplinary team of those experienced in crisis intervention and de-escalation training to respond to persons in crisis and wellness checks, with a minimum of two crisis workers responding to calls.  A case manager, holistic or culturally-specific mental health expert or outreach worker will also support the calls where their expertise is required.  All staff will receive extensive training in advanced first aid, de-escalation and situational awareness and field training.

The non-police-led response to crisis pilot project is modelled after the successful community-based safety system called CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out on the Streets), which was established in 1989 in City of Eugene, Oregon.  CAHOOTS provides mental health first response for crises involving mental illness, homelessness and addition.  A two-person team consisting of a medic and a crisis worker who has extensive training and experience are deployed to deal with mental health related crises, welfare checks, conflict resolution, substance abuse, suicide threats, amongst others. 

In the GTA, four teams will be established as part of the pilot project – one in the northwest (Etobicoke), one in the northeast (Scarborough), one in the eastern area of downtown Toronto and one devoted specifically to Toronto’s Indigenous population.

It is not clear how calls will be received by the new crisis response team, however, Mayor John Tory is endorsing a review of the “governance and operation of 911”. 

It has been proposed that a crisis call hotline, such as 211, be set up for those who are uncomfortable accessing services through 911.  A multi-lingual education campaign will also be required to educate the public on the new crisis response service, how to access it and when to call 911 for medical emergencies.

According to Mayor John Tory:

These pilot programs would allow for a non-police-led response for non-emergency, non-violent calls, including those involving persons in distress and for wellness checks.  The intention is that these mental health professionals will be the first responders.  This is a step in the right direction.  These pilots are being done in the right way with the best advice from our professional staff and they will help Toronto residents who are experiencing in their lives a non-violent crisis.

We will continue to follow the news regarding the community crisis support service pilot project and will report on the developments in this blog.

If you are facing criminal charges or have any questions regarding your legal rights, contact the experienced and skilled Oshawa criminal defence lawyers at Affleck & Barrison 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. 

Hate Crime Rates Rising in Canada

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Canada is a multi-cultural society including many social, cultural and religious groups.  Furthermore, our country reports increases in same-sex couples and those reporting that their assigned sex at birth was different from their current gender.  With so much diversity, the potential for acts of conflict or discrimination between groups rises.

Police across Canada reported 1,946 hate crimes to Statistics Canada in 2019.  This is an increase of 7 per cent from the previous year.  More than three quarters of these reported crimes took place in eight cities, including Calgary, Edmonton, Hamilton, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec City, Toronto and Vancouver. 

Police in Vancouver, and other cities across Canada, have reported an alarming rise in hate crime against East Asian Canadians, most likely stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic that originated in China.  Since the pandemic began, more than 600 incidents of hate against Asians were reported to Chinese Canadian groups.  One in three of these incidents were reported as assaults, including targeted coughing, physical attacks and violence.

Religion is also found to be a motivating factor in one-third of hate crimes in Canada, with Jews as the most targeted group in the country.  Muslims are also often the target of hate, and uttering threats is one of the most prominent violent offences that Muslims face.

The vast majority of hate crimes remain unsolved.  In 2018, only 31 per cent of reported hate crimes were solved by investigators, which was a small increase from the 28 per cent that were solved in 2017.  These numbers are still lower than the success rate that investigators have for solving other types of crimes, which is typically 40 per cent.


Hate crime is a broad legal term that comprises a variety of motives, perpetrators, victims, behaviours and damage.  There are a number of identified individuals and groups in Canada that are particularly at risk of hate crime victimization, including Indigenous peoples and those targeted because of their race, religion, ethnicity, national orientation, sexual orientation, gender or disability.

There are three specific sections of the Criminal Code of Canada that refer to hate crimes, including:

  • Section 318:  Hate propaganda, which specifically refers to advocating for genocide;
  • Section 319:  Public incitement of hatred, which specifically refers to stirring up hatred in public places; and
  • Section 430 (4.1):  Mischief related to religious property, which specifically refers to mischief taking place a churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and other places of worship.

Police may lay a hate-motivated or bias-motivated criminal charge if two things occur:

  1. A criminal offence must have occurred, such as an assault, damage to property or uttering threats; and
  2. Hate or bias towards a victim must have motivated the criminal offence, for example due to the victim’s race, nationality, colour, religion, general, disability or sexual orientation.

If an individual is convicted of a criminal offence and it is proven to be motivated by hate or bias, the judge may impose higher penalties during sentencing. 

Section 718.2 of the Criminal Code requires judges to consider an increased sentenced based on evidence that an offence was “motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression, or on any other similar factor.” 


According to a new report, Ontario police are unprepared to meet the challenges associated with the increase in hate crimes reported. 

The new report, prepared by Barbara Perry, the director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at the Ontario Tech University, includes interviews with front-line officers. 

Following her interviews with senior police officers, hate crime officers and diversity officers, Perry found that many are not clear as to what constitutes a hate crime.  This was found across all of those officers she interviewed. 

Perry spent more than two years researching and interviewing officers at eight municipal police services across Ontario.  She found that some agencies were successful in their internal training and outreach to targeted communities, whereas others failed in their approach regarding hate crimes. 

According to Perry:

Law enforcement officers themselves have expressed concern regarding the lack of systematic and co-ordinated police response to hate crime.  A major concern here is the confusion surrounding the way which hate-crime offences are classified in the Canadian Criminal Code.

Perry suggests that police agencies need to build better relationships with racialized, religious and LGBTQ communities, including disclosing their hate crime data.

Ontario’s Solicitor-General and Attorney-General have not yet commented on Perry’s report.

If you have been charged with a criminal offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  We have a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.  We are available when you need us most.

Durham Police Release Report Regarding Body-Worn Cameras

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

As we have previously blogged, body-worn cameras have been a topic of discussion by the Durham Regional Police Service since 2014 and this topic has recently re-emerged with the release of a report evaluating the body-worn camera pilot project in Durham Region. 

Between June 2018 and June 2019, a pilot project was in place and approximately 80 officers in Pickering and Ajax, and traffic enforcement officers and members of the Festive RIDE team, were equipped with body-worn cameras.  These officers recorded more than 26,616 videos.  Thirty-two per cent of the recordings were categorized as evidence and thirty per cent of them have been or will be used as evidence in court for criminal and provincial offences trials. 


In August, Ajax Councillor Marilyn Crawford and Whitby Councillor Elizabeth Roy brought a motion to reconvene the body-worn camera team and prepare a report evaluating the pilot project, which was to be completed in May 2020 but had been on pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to Councillor Crawford:

Body-worn cameras provide the accountability with no requirement of change in legislation.  This is a tangible way of showing our community that is demanding accountability and transparency in our policing.  This is one way that we can do that. 

Furthermore, Councillor Roy stated in support of providing Durham Police Services with body-worn cameras:

We are in a day where the criticism is quite critical.  This is about protecting not just the police force but also giving the support to the community and looking at options of how we can re-evaluate bad practices, or practices that just have not been corrected.

After numerous amendments, the motion passed with a unanimous vote.  Oshawa Councillor Brian Nicholson, speaking on behalf of his community, stated:

The overwhelming majority of the citizens of our region and beyond do want to have a record kept of the interactions between the community and the police.  It’s called accountability and transparency and that is what is expected of us.


A lengthy report presented to the Durham Police Services Board has revealed that outfitting officers with body-worn cameras will cost Durham police approximately $3.81 million a year.  The report also contains a detailed analysis of data gathered to date, as well as the officers’ and the public’s perception regarding the technology.

According to the report, it is recommended that the body-worn cameras be phased in for front-line officers over the next two years.  This would require an initial one-time implementation cost of $500,000.

The report concluded that the deployment of the body-worn cameras “will provide value to our internal colleagues, partner agencies, and the community”.  More specifically, the writers found that the use of body-worn cameras would provide value by increasing the quality of evidence, positively impacting prosecutions and court proceedings, improving trust and transparency, enhancing accountability and improving service effectiveness.  However, the report does address the fact that there are “limited objective measurable data to suggest there are multiple substantive benefits to implement” a body-worn camera program and there is no room in the current police service budget to support the program.

The Police Services Board is currently reviewing the 500 page report to determine its next steps regarding the implementation of body-worn cameras in Durham region.


Police officers at Toronto’s 23 Division began wearing body-worn cameras a few weeks ago, and by the fall of 2021 more than 2,300 Toronto police officers will be equipped with cameras.

The cameras will be switched on when the officers are on the way to a call.  However, there are some situations where officers are permitted to turn the cameras off.  These circumstances include those involving children, victims who are not dressed, and those who do not want to be filmed as it may be a sensitive situation.  Officers will be required to use their judgement in determining when to turn the cameras off.

Nevertheless, officers who are found to have turned their camera off when they shouldn’t have could be subjected to penalties of docked pay and their supervisors could be penalized for this decision as well.

The body-worn camera technology allows for supervisors to review what was occurring at the time the camera was turned off and determine whether it “made sense and was appropriate”.

We will continue to report in this blog on any developments with respect to body-worn cameras in Ontario and the decision by Durham Police as to whether to provide body-cameras to their officers. 

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding charges that have been laid against you or regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.

Durham Police Body Camera Pilot Project Ends

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Durham Regional Police Services (“DRPS”) have been involved in a one-year pilot project called the “Body-Worn Camera Project”.  Eighty front-line police officers have been wearing the devices while on duty for the past year.  The pilot project is now being evaluated and it will be determined by the end of the year whether the body-worn cameras (“BWC”) will continue to be used on a daily basis.


The Body-Worn Camera Project was launched on June 22, 2018 at a cost of $1.2 million.  The price tag included the need for training, IT support, video management, evaluation and storage costs. 

The cellphone-sized devices are attached to the officers while on-duty and record specific police interactions with the public, not an entire shift.  It is at the officer’s discretion when to activate the cameras and when to turn them off.

Sergeant Jason Bagg believes that BWCs can enhance training, investigations and prosecution outcomes.  He is hopeful that BWCs will result in more guilty pleas and higher conviction rates in domestic violence cases.  He states:

Body-worn cameras have been used around the world to collect evidence for prosecutions, they’ve been used to improve community trust, police transparency, policy legitimacy and procedural justice.

However, despite the benefits of BWCs, this method has been met with criticism.  There are critics that are concerned about privacy and the fear that the video may become public.  There is also a concern that the processing of the video to be used in court may create delays, which may lead to charges being dropped.


Lakehead University researchers have been studying the effects of body-worn cameras (“BWC”) by police officers and their interaction with the public.  From November 20, 2018 to December 8, 2018, researchers joined the Festive R.I.D.E. program (designed to reduce impaired driving by setting up checkpoints to randomly stop motorists) with Durham Regional Police Service. 

During this study, officers wore cameras for eight shifts and did not wear them for seven shifts.  All officers involved in the study began their interaction with the public with an introduction, followed by advising the motorists that they were wearing a BWC and would be recording the interaction during the R.I.D.E. stop.

Surveys were given to 3,636 motorists following their R.I.D.E. check, which included questions about the R.I.D.E. experience and their general opinions regarding the police.  A total of 287 surveys were analyzed and results showed that those who interacted with an officer wearing a BWC felt more positive about all outcomes measured in the survey.  The study found that those who interacted with officers wearing a BWC had more positive perceptions of:

  • Officer politeness during the R.I.D.E. interaction;
  • Officer fairness during the R.I.D.E. interaction;
  • Officer performance in general;
  • Confidence in police in general;
  • Police fairness;
  • Support for police use of BWCs.

The researchers concluded that the officers wearing BWCs and advising the public led to positive public perception of officers and the police in general, in addition to positive support for BWCs by the public.  Drivers, in general, found the officers wearing BWCs to be more polite and trustworthy.


DRPS officers turned off their BWCs on June 22, 2019, at the end of the pilot project.  Officers have recorded more than 26,000 videos, and it is estimated that 30% of the recordings have been or will be used as evidence in court for criminal and provincial offence trials.

The technology is now being evaluated as part of an ongoing cost-benefit analysis.  The cameras have been found to increase the workload for officers who use them, and there are extra costs associated with data processing and storage. 

Seven months into the project, DRPS found that there was no significant increase in officer overtime, reduced call responses or affected traffic enforcement.  DRPS did find that officers using BWCs were spending approximately 10% more time on scene (approximately 5 to 12 more minutes).  Sgt. Bagg also confirmed that there had been an increase in workload as a result of managing cases with camera evidence at the half-way mark of the project, however, it was unclear what the impact was. 

A final report on the pilot project is expected to be issued by the end of the year.

We will continue to report any developments or results of an evaluation of the BWC pilot project on this blog.

In the meantime, if you have any questions regarding charges that have been laid against you or regarding your legal rights, please contact the knowledgeable criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947.  Our skilled criminal lawyers have significant experience defending a wide range of criminal charges and protecting our client’s rights.  For your convenience, we offer a 24-hour telephone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice.

Conviction Upheld for Toronto Cop

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

The Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the 2016 conviction of attempted murder and six-year jail sentence of Toronto Police Constable James Forcillo (“Forcillo”).

We have previously blogged about the trial court decision where a jury found Forcillo guilty of attempted murder in the death of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim (“Yatim”).


On July 27, 2013, police were called to the scene with reports about a disturbance aboard the 505 Dundas streetcar.  At trial, the jury heard evidence that Yatim had consumed the drug ecstasy before boarding the westbound streetcar at Yonge Street. He then proceeded to expose himself to women on the streetcar and withdrew a switchblade. The streetcar stopped near Grace Street and all passengers exited the doors.

Forcillo and his partner were the first officers to arrive and found Yatim alone on the streetcar. Forcillo fired nine shots from the street at Yatim after repeatedly requesting that the youth drop a small knife that he was holding as he stood aboard an empty streetcar. Forcillo fired two separate rounds of shots. Yatim was critically injured by the first round of shots, which caused him to fall on the floor of the streecar.

At trial, Forcillo faced two charges: second-degree murder for the first round of gunfire and attempted murder for the second round. The jury found Forcillo was justified in firing the first three shots at Yatim, and therefore not guilty of second-degree murder. However, the jury concluded that Forcillo was not justified in firing the second round of shots, and therefore convicted him of attempted murder.


Justice Edward Then sentenced Forcillo to six years in jail after the jury convicted him of attempted murder.

At the sentencing hearing, Forcillo’s lawyers argued that a minimum sentence should apply to a police officer on duty.

Justice Then stated that the second round of gunfire was “unreasonable, unnecessary and excessive” and contrary to Forcillo’s police training. He went on to explain that the sentence must match the crime. Furthermore, he expressed his belief that police officers should be held to a higher standard than members of the public and that Forcillo should have used de-escalation techniques to convince Yatim to release his weapon.

Forcillo had been granted bail pending the appeal decision, but he has been behind bars since late last year as a result of breaching his bail conditions. He has been charged with perjury and attempting to obstruct justice and is currently suspended without pay from the Toronto police.


In October, 2017, Forcillo launched an appeal. Forcillo requested that the Court of Appeal substitute a not guilty verdict or order a new trial. On appeal, Forcillo’s lawyers raised several questions about the trial and the sentence, including:

  • Whether the conviction for attempted murder can stand?
  • Whether the trial judge erred in excluding evidence regarding Mr. Yatim’s state of mind?
  • Whether the trial judge erred in sentencing Forcillo beyond the five-year mandatory minimum sentence?

This week, the Court of Appeal dismissed Forcillo’s appeal of both his conviction and sentence. In a unanimous decision, the Court held that the six-year prison sentence was “fit” considering the surrounding circumstances of the crime, including Forcillo’s failure to express remorse.

The Court of Appeal found that the jury’s verdict was reasonable as there were obvious differences between the circumstances when Forcillo fired the first set of shots and when he discharged the second set of gunfire (given that Yatim was hit and laying on his back during the second round of gunfire).

The Court of Appeal stated:

[Forcillo] knew from his training that Mr. Yatim did not pose an imminent threat to anyone merely by re-arming himself with a knife. He knew that he was not entitled to kill Mr. Yatim in these circumstances, yet he proceeded to fire six additional rounds fixed with that lethal intent.

Forcillo has the option of appealing this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. In order to do so, Forcillo would have to demonstrate that there is an issue of national importance. Forcillo’s lawyers are currently considering whether to appeal. We will keep you updated as this matter continues to develop.

If you have been charged with a serious offence or have any questions regarding your legal rights, please contact the experienced criminal lawyers at Affleck & Barrison LLP online or at 905-404-1947. We offer a 24-hour phone service to protect your rights and to ensure that you have access to justice at all times.

Breathalyzer Test Ruled Inadmissible

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Every year, thousands of people are charged with impaired driving in Ontario and many of those people are convicted based on breathalyzer readings taken at the scene of the accident. However, a recent decision by Justice Elinore Ready in Brampton, has called the integrity of breathalyzer use in Ontario into question, casting doubt on guilty verdicts in numerous other impaired driving and drive over 80 cases. The Brampton court acquitted a driver who failed a roadside breath test after hearing evidence from a former government scientist who said that breathalyzer tests are unreliable and the process used in Ontario is flawed.

The expert witness, Ben Joseph, formerly worked for the Centre for Forensic Sciences, which oversees the breath-test program in Ontario. Mr. Joseph spent three days testifying in court, giving evidence that the readings obtained by the Intoxilyzer 8000C – the only breathalyzer device in use in Ontario – were not reliable. Mr. Joseph testified that after studying the device’s maintenance and calibration records, he discovered numerous inaccurate results and other failures. Additionally, Mr. Joseph testified that since all of the Intoxilyzer 8000C models used in Ontario lack an established error rate, there is no way to be statistically confident about any given breath-test reading.

The judge agreed with Mr. Joseph, finding that a device that is not properly maintained could not provide complete results, and without an error rate, the device’s results are not reliable.  As a result, the charges against the defendant, Gurdev Singh, whose breath-test reading registered well over the legal limit, were dismissed.

This decision is important news for criminal defence lawyers in Ontario, as it will likely affect thousands of impaired driving cases across the province, and likely affect police practices. The Crown has filed an appeal of the decision.

To speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

The Problem with Eyewitness Testimony

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In trials involving eyewitness testimony, the frailty of memory often becomes a key part of the defence strategy, . Eyewitness accounts can make a deep impression on a jury, especially when the witness is expresses a high level of certainty. However, although a confident eyewitness can make or break a trial, experience shows that mistaken identifications have and do occur and courts have long recognized this.

Many people believe that human memory works like a video recording of our experience, but according to experts, memories are actually quite fragile and susceptible to contamination. As the recent trial of Jian Ghomeshi shows, memories can change over time and be impacted by stress and trauma. The science behind why people remember certain details and not others, and why our memories and the way we recount them can change over time have been closely studied and arise frequently in court.

Several studies have been conducted on human memory and on the propensity for eyewitnesses to remember events and details that did not occur. It is not uncommon for victims to genuinely and confidently identify their attackers only to be proven wrong by DNA evidence years later, as was the case in the Netflix documentary Making a Murderer.

 But this does not mean that eyewitness identification is always unreliable. Sometimes eyewitness identification can be used to exonerate a person who is wrongfully accused of a crime. However, courts are now aware of the ability of third parties to introduce false memories to witnesses. There is only one chance to test the memory of an eyewitness as their memories can become contaminated. That is why it is so important that the testing conditions are adequate. Proper interview techniques and procedures by police and prosecutors are essential to ensure the reliability of identification evidence.

If you would like to speak to an experienced criminal defence lawyer, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

Why Posting Crimes on Social Media Is A Bad Idea

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

Social media, for better or worse, is here to stay. Whether you use Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or Twitter – there is a brave new world of connecting and sharing information with your friends, family and all of cyberspace. Police across the world are on social media too, and they are beginning to discover a new ways to use social media to catch law-breakers and to aid in investigations. A 2014 International Association of Chiefs of Police survey found that among the 600 law enforcement agencies questioned, about 95 percent use social media; 82.3 percent said that social media is foremost an investigatory tool; and 78.8 percent reported that social media helped solve crime in their jurisdictions.

In Pennsylvania, for example, a local newspaper started posting mug shots of people wanted by police officials on Pinterest, the popular photo-sharing site. As a result, the community experienced a 57% increase in arrests. Apparently, some people even called to say they had seen their own mug shot online and asked how to turn themselves in to authorities.

Closer to home, in Windsor, ON, police have been sharing videos on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook to help solve petty crimes or to locate missing children. Police have always reached out to the public to help solve a large proportion of their crimes, and social media is a logical extension of what they have always done.

But for all the different ways that police are finding to use social media, some people are just making it far too easy for them. Things that happen in cyberspace have real life consequences – and oversharing can sometimes land you in jail.  Earlier this week, a woman in Florida was arrested and charged after she posted a video of herself saying she was driving drunk on the live streaming app Periscope. Two people apparently called 911 to report the video to police. Police officers then watched the video and were able to determine the woman’s location and pull her over.

Today, technology drives the way that people live their lives and the reach that social media provides is absolutely unprecedented. It’s therefore more important than ever to be careful of what you say and do online, keeping in mind that almost nothing is truly private. Once something is out there in cyberspace, it’s out there forever.

To speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.

Carding, Street Checks and “Community Engagement”: Know Your Rights

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

What is Carding?

Carding (sometimes referred to as street checks or “community engagement”) is a controversial police practice of stopping people, apparently at random, to ask a series of intrusive questions and collect information. Carding often begins when a police officer approaches someone in a public place – on the street, in a park, outside a convenience store – and strikes up a conversation, asking an individual or group what they are doing. The officer then asks for identification, without placing the individual(s) under arrest.

According to investigative reports conducted by the Toronto Star , people stopped for carding between 2008 and 2013 were more likely to be African-Canadian than white, and the vast majority of encounters did not involve an arrest or charges. Despite charges not being laid, details about each individual were recorded and entered into a massive database. The Star reporters found that Toronto police filled out at least 2.1 million contact cards involving 1.2 million people between 2008 and 2013.

In 2014, rules about carding were briefly amended to require police to inform people of their rights and issue a receipt to the individual which would include the officer’s name and badge number. However, these rules were never fully implemented. In April of 2015, a new policy was announced requiring police officers to tell people why they are being stopped if they ask, and inform them that they are free to walk away. Police would also be required to give citizens business cards instead of receipts.

Although the police have claimed that the practice is legal, the legality of the practice is still unclear. Earlier this week, departing Ontario ombudsman Andre Martin stated in a report, “Stopping citizens without an objective an reasonable basis for believing that they may be implicated in a recent or ongoing criminal offence, or where there are reasonable and probably grounds to arrest them, is unconstitutional – it’s a form of arbitrary detention contrary to section 9 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.” Those calling for an end to the practice see no distinction between carding and racial profiling.

Know Your Rights

Many people are not aware that Canadians are not required to carry identification except when driving. In addition, an individual has the right to walk away from the police if he or she is questioned and not offered a legitimate reason for the police interest. If an individual is being arrested, he or she also has the right to counsel. But many people who have been carded report being intimidated by the confrontation and feel pressured to speak to police.

Jurisdictions across Ontario have been considering whether to suspend the practice as they await provincial regulation. Hamilton and Peel Region announced this week that they would not be suspending carding. Meanwhile, Queen’s Park has been consulting with police, concerned community groups, civil libertarians, the Ontario Human Right Commission and the general public with the aim of introducing a reform of carding later this fall.

If you have any questions about carding or to find out more about your rights, contact an experienced criminal defence lawyer at Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.








The Current State of Canada’s Prostitution Laws

Written on Behalf of Affleck & Barrison LLP

In December 2013, in the infamous Bedford case, the Supreme Court of Canada struck down some of Canada’s prostitution laws. The court suspended its ruling for 12 months, allowing the federal government time to draft new legislation. Bill C-36: the Protection of Communities and Exploited Persons Act, was born and came into effect late last year.

With the introduction of Bill C-36, the buying, but not the selling of sex was explicitly outlawed for the first time in Canada. The legislation also gave the police the power to prosecute people who advertise sex work and people who exploit or otherwise make money off sex workers.  Sex workers can still advertise their own sexual services, as the bill contains an exemption for sex workers themselves.

The government’s stated goal of the legislation was to reduce the demand for prostitution by “discouraging entry into it, deterring participation in it and ultimately abolishing it to the greatest extent possible”. The intent of the legislation is to make it more difficult for johns and pimps while protecting sex workers. Since the legislation has been enacted, the Toronto Police Service has begun a large-scale crackdown on human trafficking.

The legislation is not without controversy. Amnesty International has long been calling for the decriminalization of sex work involving consenting adults. The human rights group argues that criminalization of any sort makes it more likely that the rights of sex workers will be violated because the practices are pushed underground.

But other groups say that abolishing laws against prostitution lead to more violations of the rights of women and girls, and lead to human trafficking and child rape. Proponents of decriminalization argue that sex workers can be distinguished between women and children who are sold into sexual slavery and that there is a significant difference between coercive and consensual prostitution.

It is believed that Mali Jean, a Quebec man charged in Saskatchewan, was the first person to be charged under the new law on charges dated July 27, 2015.

 For more information and to speak to an experienced criminal defence lawyer, please contact Affleck & Barrison online or at 905-404-1947.



Man charged in Saskatoon under new federal prostitution laws