Minister's Statements - Announcement of Strategy for a Safer Ontario

Minister’s Statements

Announcement of Strategy for a Safer Ontario

August 13, 2015

Good Morning,

Thank you for joining me for today's announcement.

I want to thank Daniel’s Spectrum for hosting us this morning and Artscape CEO Tim Jones for joining us.

This is a community space and a neighbourhood that is truly transforming the lives of young people and the residents who call it home.

I cannot think of a more fitting place for today's announcement about our vision to transform policing, promote community well-being and build a safer Ontario.

Our government knows that building safer, stronger communities are the foundation on which we build a safer, stronger Ontario.

And that when communities plan together, and work together, they achieve better results for residents.

These same values of collaboration, and cooperation will be at the centre of our effective, sustainable, and community-based model for policing in the 21st century.

And they will guide us as we rewrite Ontario’s policing framework to reflect the priorities and realities of the 21st century to ensure we continue to build even safer communities and a stronger province.  

That is why I am proud to announce that our government is developing its new Strategy for a Safer Ontario.

Our new strategy – which represents the largest policing transformation in Ontario in 25 years – is our government's blueprint of what effective, sustainable, and community-based policing will be in Ontario.

It is a vision that is focused on finding smarter and better ways to build safer communities.

And it will use evidence, rather than ideology, to focus on outcomes – which is to build safer communities.

Now before discussing the next steps in this bold and ambitious strategy, I want to take a moment to outline why this work we are undertaking is so necessary.

We know that Ontario is one of the safest places in North America to live, work, grow up and grow old.

In fact, Ontario has had the lowest crime rate of any province and territory every year since 2005.

We are proud of what we have achieved working together with our police services to build safe communities …

…but we can no longer rely on the old models and old ways of doing things.

The Police Services Act was written in 1990, and has basically remained unchanged over the past 25 years.

Now take a moment to think about how the rest of the world has changed during that time … and all the things that could never have been envisioned when the act was written:

The increasing complexity and global nature of fraud and the increasing use of the internet to commit crimes.

The rapid acceleration of technology and how it could be used in policing and society.

And the increasing frequency of police interactions with vulnerable individuals, such as those suffering with mental health or addiction issues.

These interactions often mean that officers must be a social worker, a mental health worker, a youth counsellor, and a police officer at the same time. 

These are just some reasons why we need a new act that realigns our services and our approach for the 21st century.

We have been working with our municipal and policing partners through the Future of Policing Advisory Committee to develop our Strategy for a Safer Ontario.

I want to thank the members of the Committee:

  • The Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police
  • The Association of Municipalities of Ontario
  • The City of Toronto
  • The Ontario Association of Police Services Boards
  • Ontario Provincial Police
  • Toronto Police Service
  • Toronto Police Association
  • The Ontario Provincial Police Association
  • The Police Association of Ontario
  • The Toronto Police Services Board
  • The Ontario Senior Officers Police Association

And many other partners for their hard work, dedication, and feedback to help develop the blueprint over the last three years.

Now is the time to take the next step – we want to take the Strategy out of the boardroom and into community centres and neighbourhoods to consult directly with Ontarians.

Starting this fall, our government will be hosting regional consultations to discuss the key pillars of our new strategy to develop and introduce a new legislative policing framework.

The cornerstone of our new strategy will be Community Safety and Well-Being Plans in every part of the province - built on the belief that building safer a community takes every community member.

Community Safety and Well-Being Plans will be developed by the local community, and based on locally identified priorities in order to meet the diverse needs of distinct communities.

They will help reduce the demand for a reactive, resource intensive emergency response by developing a collaborative, and proactive approach where community partners share information and work together with police on early intervention opportunities.

This helps prevent crimes, and improves outcomes for local residents and the community by making sure they are receiving the right response, at the right time, and by the right responders.

We know that a number of innovative pilot projects are underway in police services across Ontario that partner with community agencies that reflect this model such as:

North Bay’s Gateway Hub which has identified mental health issues, substance abuse, and family issues as the most prevalent local risk priorities and are providing multi-faceted supports to improve outcomes for local residents.

Hamilton’s partnerships with mental health nurses and coordination with local hospitals are improving outcomes for citizens and reducing the amount of time officers spend in hospital waiting rooms.

And the OPP’s technological advances are helping solve cases in Ontario and around the world.

We must encourage these programs and now is the time to make these innovative, collaborative ideas the norm for communities and police services across Ontario.

All of this means that police services will be one part of a stronger social safety net, rather than the entire net themselves …

… producing better results for the individual and community at a lower cost to the taxpayer.

The other pillars we will be consulting on include:

Improving interactions between police and vulnerable Ontarians by improving frontline response to persons in crisis and addressing the increasing number of mental health related calls that could be more appropriately handled by other community service providers.

Modernizing core police responsibilities to ensure we have the right personnel to provide the right response at the right time.

Enhancing Training Requirements (including anti-bias training) and providing more continuous training throughout an officer’s careers so they have the tools and training to deal with current and future public safety needs.

Creating an effective and responsible approach for the expanded use of technology.

Strengthening the governance and oversight structure for policing by laying out clear roles, duties, required competencies, and responsibilities for oversight bodies and their members.

Developing a provincial framework for First Nations policing that ensures equitable and culturally responsive policing for First Nations communities; and

Moving forward on Outcome-Based Performance and Reporting Requirements to increase public transparency; updating the current system of provincial inspections for regulatory compliance.

Our Strategy for a Safer Ontario is ambitious, it is bold, it will be guided by evidence, and will be focused on outcomes.

It is an effective approach. It is a collaborative approach. And it is a transformative approach.

We must embrace this opportunity - now is time to set the course for an effective, sustainable, and community-focused model of policing for the 21st century.