A new report by the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) calls out a pair of Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) branch-based crisis response models as best practices that should be implemented across Ontario.
The OHRC’s Framework for change to address systemic racism in policing, its final report in a series focused on systemic racism in policing, calls on Ontario to establish a legislative and regulatory framework to directly address systemic racial discrimination in policing across the province.
The OHRC’s framework includes 10 essential steps for eliminating discriminatory practices from policing across the province:
- Implementing a Crown pre-charge screening process
2. Ending racial profiling by mandating a broader range of race-based data collection and implementing early intervention systems
3. Amending the Ontario Use of Force Model
4. Accelerating efforts to civilianize police services
5. Promoting non-police responses to calls related to mental health, substance use or homelessness
6. Reviewing school resource officer programs
7. Creating greater transparency in police discipline
8. Making sure court or tribunal findings of discrimination against police officers are appropriately investigated and addressed
9. Requiring independent investigations of police complaints
10. Amending the Special Investigations Unit Act to allow greater disclosure to the public during a Special Investigation Unit (SIU) investigation
The OHRC points to CMHA Thames Valley Addictions and Mental Health Services’ Mental Health and Addictions Crisis Centre and CMHA Peel Dufferin’s 24.7 Crisis Support Peel Dufferin as examples of the types of health care-led crisis response models that should be implemented across the province. According to the report, “[t]he existing models in London and Peel have successfully diverted significant numbers of calls away from police services and reduced the strain on local hospitals, have provided prompt crisis intervention to people in their time of need, and have created a referral system so the person gets ongoing support in the community.”
CMHA Ontario worked closely with the OHRC as it completed this final report, and supports its call for a provincial framework to address systemic racism and discrimination in policing.
In 2017, the OHRC launched a public inquiry into racial profiling and racial discrimination of Black persons by the Toronto Police Service (TPS).
The OHRC’s first report, A Collective Impact, was released in December 2018 and showed that between 2013 and 2017, Black people were significantly overrepresented in SIU investigations into serious injuries and deaths by TPS members.
A Disparate Impact, the OHRC’s second report released in August 2020, found that Black people were disproportionately charged, arrested, struck, shot or killed by TPS members in comparison to other populations.