By MPP Toby Barrett
Last week during debate in the Legislature I had the opportunity to address the Safer Ontario Act and its changes to the Police Services Act.
Regrettably, government is rushing this one through yet again with little time for consultation. My other concern is the removal of powers from police may occur later through regulation, rather than in the bill where at least MPP’s have a vote.
I feel our police deserve better.
We as a society recognize the difficult job officers do every single day, every shift on duty and oftentimes off duty. Very simply, they’re prepared to risk their lives to protect the rest of us. An officer is the first person you call when you get in trouble, if it’s something you figure you can’t handle yourself. Without fail, without hesitation, a police officer will step in harm’s way to protect.
And officers themselves just couldn’t do a lot of the work without their police auxiliary and, obviously, without their civilian backup.
I have good memories of working directly with officers in my previous career with Ontario’s Addiction Research Foundation in Brant, Brantford, Haldimand–Norfolk, Six Nations and New Credit. A lot of our work back in the 80s and 90s was fighting drinking and driving. We set up a very energetic program of high school assemblies. I also worked with community police on the Grade 6 Values, Influences and Peers (VIP) program.
Today we see many new police programs in the works, being developed not only in my riding, Hamilton and elsewhere. We have made a commitment to expand such programs as part of our $1.9 billion commitment to mental health – one being the COAST program. COAST stands for Crisis Outreach and Support Team. It’s a pilot project that partners plainclothes police officers with mental health workers.
With respect to PTSD, we support lowering the barriers for those first responders in need of critical incident stress counselling and treatment. We can’t leave officers out there fighting the bureaucracy at WSIB and trying to prove something that’s really difficult to diagnose in the first place.
Patrick Brown put out a commitment not only to update but also to strengthen the Mandatory Blood Testing Act to protect our police officers and other first responders.
We are committed to expand the OPP enforcement team to combat contraband tobacco and to include local police forces, giving them the necessary tools and money to do the job. We will also restore provincial funding levels for the anti-gang and the anti-gun task forces in Ottawa and Toronto.
Our public safety comes at a high price. It is expensive. It requires skilled professionals.
Police men and women are brave people; they’re dedicated and they’re an example of what public service really looks like.
There is a symbol of the debt of gratitude we owe to police only a few hundred yards from the Ontario Legislature. The Ontario Police Memorial regrettably, has well over 700 names on it of police officers who have been killed in the line of duty since 1804.
We have a memorial. It’s our way of saying thanks for what has gone on over the past couple hundred years in policing.
Toby Barrett is the MPP for Haldimand-Norfolk