Charter Challenge Coming?

Ontario Provincial Police near Clinton Ont., in this file photo from Sept. 14, 2014. (Geoff Robins / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Ontario Provincial Police near Clinton Ont., in this file photo from Sept. 14, 2014. (Geoff Robins / THE CANADIAN PRESS)

TORONTO – The Ontario government has passed a bill overhauling policing regulations in the province, saying it will strengthen oversight of law enforcement and redefine officers’ duties.

Bill 175, dubbed the Safer Ontario Act, passed in the legislature Thursday and offers the first updates to the Police Services Act in more than 25 years.

One of the most significant changes involves expanding the mandates of the province’s three police oversight agencies, increasing the scope of what they can investigate and adding extra accountability measures.

The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services says it revised the bill to reflect concerns voiced by police associations when the legislation was tabled last year.

But some of those police associations say they still have qualms about the bill, arguing it opens the door for privatization down the road by strictly defining officer duties and referring others for outsourcing.

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi says the long-sought updates to the province’s policing laws – which go into effect in a few months – will give forces the tools they need to do their work in the modern era.

“This bill is very much about strengthening the trust and respect between the police and the communities they serve,” Naqvi said. “The legislation we have passed today … really sets the framework for modern policing in 21st-century Ontario.”

Many of the changes stem from Appeal Court Justice Michael Tulloch’s report on police oversight, which made 129 recommendations aimed at increasing transparency and accountability for the province’s forces and the bodies that oversee their conduct.

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