As reported in the February 27 issue of the Times, the Ontario government planned to introduce a new bill, entitled An Act with Respect to Community Safety and Policing, to repeal and replace the Police Services Act, 2018, and the Ontario Special Investigations Unit Act, 2018. The terms of this Act had left local Police Services Boards unsure as to their future. There seemed to be a possibility that Boards, such as the one we have in North Grenville, could be amalgamated with others in the United Counties, with a resulting loss of influence and input for North Grenville in setting terms and costs of policing in our municipality.
Now, the revised Bill has been published, and Police forces and Police Services Boards are studying the text carefully to see what the changes made to the Act might imply. To date, the focus of most scrutiny has been the clauses dealing with the Special Investigations Unit, mandated to investigate situations where police officers are involved in shootings, or other activities.
The North Grenville Police Services Board has been looking at the new draft act, Bill 68, to see if their concerns have been addressed in the revised text. However, having consulted the Ministery of Community Safety and Corrections Services, they were informed that Bill 68, when it comes to OPP Detachment Boards, is a cut and paste from the Bill originally introduced last year.
There are numerous questions that need to be answered before the Bill becomes an Act of the Ontario Legislature, including whether the current Police Services Board in North Grenville will continue to operate as before; whether they will have the same authority in terms of negotiating OPP service contracts and costs, and oversight of OPP operations. Or will a Board be established to cover a county-wide area, leaving NG with less input, and less influence, over local policing matters.
Another element in the legislation that is causing concern is Part 13, which imposes on municipalities the responsibility of establishing Community Safety and Well-Being Plans. The aim of these Plans, according to the Ministry, is to mandate: “municipalities to work with police services and local service providers in health care, social services and education to develop community safety and well-being plans that proactively address locally identified community risks; and municipal police service boards to participate in the planning led by municipalities, and to consider the community safety and well-being plan when developing their strategic plans”.
This would have to be completed within two years of the Act being implemented, and the municipality would have to establish a committee to draw up the plan, and then “pay the community safety and well-being planner’s remuneration and expenses as set out in the regulations” [204(10)]. The apprehension of Don Sherritt, Chair of the Police Services Board, is that the proposals in the Act will weaken the municipality’s ability to have input into policing costs and operations. The concern of others is that this is another example of the Province downloading burdens and costs, while setting the legal framework under which these responsibilities would be imposed.
Don Sherritt told the Times that, under the terms of the revised Bill, “we are facing the same challenges. Experience has shown that things can move very fast and we need to keep track of what’s happening here so that our concerns are heard”.
While Bill 65 has gone through first reading, there has been no schedule published for the remaining legislative process. Even when the Act is passed, it may not be until the accompanying Regulations are published that the full impact of the legislation will be known.