For Immediate Release
December 2, 2015
Queen’s Park – In speaking to Bill 113, the Police Record Checks Reform Act, local MPP Toby Barrett warned that although he supports the bill he trusts it will be enforced fairly and equally, using Caledonia as an example where laws were not enforced to their original intent.
“As we discuss this proposed legislation, I do stress that the PC caucus supports the rights of all Ontarians to be treated fairly and to be treated equally,” Barrett told the House. “Everyone is to be treated equally before the law in our society, although there is an exception I have witnessed over a number of years, and that would be Caledonia.”
Reading from Christie Blatchford’s book Helpless, Barrett read out statements from then Ontario Provincial Police Association President Karl Walsh: “I still don’t understand why we took different approaches to law enforcement in Caledonia. I don’t think I’ll ever understand it. I’ve never been given an adequate explanation as to why that occurred.”
Barrett said there was an issue of two-tiered justice in Caledonia. He again referenced Walsh who termed the phrase, ‘two-tier justice’ in a June 2006 media interview. The concern of Walsh was that so many officers and citizens were being injured unnecessarily in Caledonia and there was not a fair and equitable administration of law.
“So here we had the president of the union, representing something like 7,500 OPP officers, and he indicated in the Caledonia stand-off that there was one law for aboriginal people and another for everyone else in the province,” Barrett said in the Legislature.
Barrett made it clear legislation has no business being enforced along racial lines and when this is ignored the administration of the law is not fair and equitable. In the case of Caledonia, Barrett told the House that he felt OPP officers became pawns of the higher-ups.
In closing, Barrett said it is essential the government get laws like Bill 113 right – make it streamlined and ensure justice is blind when it comes to colour and ethnic background.
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For more information please contact MPP Toby Barrett at 519-428-0446, 905-765-8413, 1-800-903-8629
Tuesday, November 30, 2015
Mr. Toby Barrett: I also welcome the opportunity to join this debate on Bill 113, the Police Record Checks Reform Act. As we know, the bill strikes out terms like “criminal reference check” and “record check” and substitutes the term “police record check.” So, we’ve changed the language and, going forward, technically or linguistically, we don’t call for a “criminal background check” for somebody who wants to work in a bank. However, if this law passes, as I understand it, that still remains the case. The words are changed; that’s about it.
The act, as we know, authorizes police forces to conduct three kinds of police record checks: criminal record checks—even though we don’t call them that now—criminal record and judicial matters checks, and vulnerable sector checks.
As we discuss this proposed legislation, I do stress that the PC caucus supports the rights of all Ontarians to be treated fairly and to be treated equally. Everyone is to be treated equally before the law in our society, although there is an exception I have witnessed over a number of years, and that would be Caledonia.
It is also important for people to understand that this bill is not about carding. Our daily paper last month had a good article on the issue of carding. Keith Leslie, actually, of The Canadian Press explained that the new regulation would ban the random stopping of citizens by police and require officers to provide a written record of any exchanges. Reading this article on the weekend, it says that Community Safety Minister Naqvi indicated that the draft regulations would establish clear and consistent rules to protect civil liberties during voluntary interactions between police and the public. He indicated in this article that the government heard from many people of colour—that’s how it was described in the newspaper article—and aboriginal men and women who said that the Human Rights Code was being ignored by police who stopped them for no apparent reason. He says that police will not be allowed to stop people based on how they look or which neighborhood they live in. Again, this was not the case over a number of years in the Caledonia Six Nations incident.
I’m quite heartened by Bill 113. One of the main objectives is to establish standards right across Ontario and establish province-wide rules when it comes to police record checks. As I have indicated, Speaker, we do support the right for all Ontarians to be treated fairly and equitably. We support this legislation because it brings consistency to police record checks. It’s based on recommendations of the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police, the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, amongst other groups.
However, as I indicated, over nine years—and the media reported on this consistently—we had an issue of two-tiered justice. This was in Caledonia. In fact, the president of the OPP Association, Karl Walsh, was the one who termed that phrase, “two-tier justice,” during a media interview in June 2006. His concern was that so many officers and citizens were being injured unnecessarily in Caledonia. There was a two-tier system, and in spite of what we do here, it was not a fair and equitable administration of the law.
So here we had the president of the union, representing something like 7,500 OPP officers, and he indicated in the Caledonia stand-off that there was one law for aboriginal people and another for everyone else in the province. As he said, “Our concern is basically that there is a two-tier justice system.” This was a reference in the Toronto Sun, June 16, 2006. I looked this up in a book written by Gary McHale. Actually, I’ll give you the title of the book. It’s Victory in the No-Go Zone: Winning the Fight Against Two-Tier Policing. I sincerely believe that this legislation, Bill 113, as with that carding regulation, is a step in the right direction to try and eliminate this kind of approach—and I’m colour-blind when it comes to race—that makes a distinction with respect to race. Legislation has no business being involved in that, and the enforcement of legislation has no business being involved in racial differences.
I’d like to quote Walsh again. This is in a book by Christie Blatchford entitled Helpless. “I still don’t understand why we took different approaches to law enforcement in Caledonia. I don’t think I’ll ever understand it. I’ve never been given an adequate explanation as to why that occurred.” He goes on to say, “I can’t forgive them for a lot of the approaches they took to this and I think numerous officers got unnecessarily injured, I think everybody that was involved in this suffered injuries that could have been [avoided] had they just stuck to their training, stuck to their policies and stuck to the law.”
Here we are, Speaker, debating, creating a new law, an amended law, and I sincerely hope that this law is followed through as to its original intent.
Walsh concluded by saying, “You know, the law doesn’t discern colour of skin or ethnic background, and it’s not supposed to. Justice is supposed to be blind.” I think we all agree with this. However, under certain circumstances that has not been the case, and Caledonia has shown that repeatedly.
There’s reference as well to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, a reference that it’s merely words on a piece of paper and can be destroyed at will by the very people sworn to uphold the law. We have a system—and I’m referring to what Walsh is talking about—where our leaders act in way that is beneficial to society, but in Caledonia—and again, this comes from Christie Blatchford’s book—police officers became pawns.
I am pro-OPP in this case. I witnessed it time and time again. In my view, the OPP became pawns of the higher-ups, be they politicians or perhaps senior administration in the OPP.
I’ll wrap up by quoting Christie Blatchford: “Caledonia is all about the absolute failure of the system to protect average people—a failure that is rooted in a race-based approach to policing and public policy.” I remain confident that this legislation dealing with police record checks will ensure that this cannot be misused.
As many, I’ve had challenges in our constituency office. A gentleman came in just a week or two ago. He was actually quite upset. He wanted to go to Simcoe for his record check. He’s from Haldimand County. The reason he needed a record check: What he does right now is he plays the role of Santa Claus. He knows he’s got to be fingerprinted; it would make life for him a lot easier just to go to Simcoe. It’s a little closer. He was turned down. He has to go to Cayuga, wait a few days, then go back to Simcoe again.
I don’t know whether children are watching this afternoon, but I can tell you that Santa Claus was in my office, and by his use of language, I could tell that he was very, very angry.
It suggests to me as well that with this legislation, we’ve got to get the regulations straight. We have to ensure that the system can be as streamlined as possible to make sure we don’t have these kinds of overly bureaucratic, cumbersome roles. I’m referring to rural areas, where, instead of going to the nearest OPP detachment—that may be in the county you don’t live in, but it’s a lot closer—you have to go to a detachment in your particular county. You may not be working in that county. Again, anything that can be done—and I know this goes beyond the legislation—to make sure that this legislation is carried through as simply and easily as possible.