In February 2014, the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) released a report titled “Police Use of Force and Mental Health.” The report was issued in the wake of the jury recommendations in the coroner’s inquest into the deaths of Reyal Jardine-Douglas, Sylvia Klibingaitis, and Michael Eligon. All three were fatally shot by police officers. OHRC took part in the inquest and its report outlines the relevant human rights principles, issues and recommendations relevant to cases involving use of force and individuals with mental health issues. The report covered the following topics:
- Conducted energy weapons
- Developing policies and procedures
- Data collection and reporting
- Mobile crisis intervention teams
- The provincial use of force model
When discussing Conducted Energy Weapons (CEWs), OHRC expresses a concern that the current guidelines for when a CEW should be deployed are subjective and that the risk threshold for CEW use may negatively impact individuals with mental health issues. OHRC recommends that the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (MCSCS) review these guidelines with a human rights lens in order to provide specific guidance for when police officers encounter individuals with mental health issues who, by virtue of their condition, may not appear co-operative.
CMHA Ontario and OHRC have both voiced the need to expand the hours of mobile crisis intervention teams (MCITs) so they are available 24 hours a day,seven days a week.
In addition to concerns around increased use of CEWs on individuals with mental health issues, the OHRC report also discussed a concern that use of force is more likely to be used in police interactions with racialized populations including African Canadians. OHRC cites several reports showing that racialized people are disproportionately likely to be killed by police and recommends that data be collected on race, mental health and use of force in a way that is consistent with human right principles. Further, OHRC recommends that MCSCS provide guidance to Ontario police services in relation to this issue.
CMHA Ontario and OHRC have both voiced the need to expand the hours of mobile crisis intervention teams (MCITs) so they are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide individuals experiencing a mental health crisis with the appropriate supports.
Finally, OHRC specifically cites the CMHA Ontario policy position paper on CEWs which briefly discusses Ontario’s use of force model and how it does not make allowance or provide guidance on how police officers should react when encountering individuals who may be experiencing a mental health crisis. The position paper further states that there are alternative options to use of force including mental health crisis intervention through MCITs and de-escalation techniques. OHRC recommends that MCSCS review this model in order to ensure that it minimizes adverse impact on individuals with mental health issues.
OHRC recognizes that many of the recommendations made in its report are not new but that delays and lack of implementation are not acceptable.
Read the full CMHA Ontario policy position paper on CEWs,
CMHA Ontario is also a lead on the Community of Interest (COI) for Racialized Populations and Mental Health and Addictions, which seeks to improve mental health and addictions services, policy and planning for racialized communities in Ontario. To review our work on racialized communities and emergency department use, including promising practices from the policing sector, please visit the COI website.