How policing is governed in this province is about to get an overhaul with the passage of Bill 68, the Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act, 2019.
The omnibus legislation, among other things, established the Community Safety and Policing Act, 2019 (CSPA), which once in force will require the District of Muskoka to establish police detachment boards that will oversee how policing is provided in the community.
At its July 26 meeting, District of Muskoka CAO Julie Stevens gave Huntsville council a rundown of what the boards will be responsible for:
- Consulting on the selection of a detachment commander;
- Determining objectives and priorities for the detachment, in consultation with the detachment commander, including the option to establish local policing policies;
- Monitoring the performance of the detachment commander;
- Reviewing reports from the detachment commander regarding policing provided by the detachment;
- Considering any community safety and well-being plan adopted by a municipality or First Nation that receives policing from the detachment; and
- Providing an annual report to the municipalities and band councils regarding the policing provided by the detachment in their municipalities or First Nation reserves.
“You know the District pays quite a bit for policing and we’ve talked about how we haven’t had a voice and so I think this is the first step towards a voice… in some of the matters related to policing,” Stevens told council.
Muskoka has two police detachments – one in Bracebridge and one in Huntsville. The Bracebridge detachment serves the towns of Gravenhurst and Bracebridge and the townships of Muskoka Lakes and the northern part of Georgian Bay, as well as the Wahta Mohawk and Moose Deer Point First Nations. While the Huntsville detachment serves the Town of Huntsville and the Township of Lake of Bays.
Stevens said the District as the upper-tier municipality will have administrative responsibility for both the Bracebridge and Huntsville police boards.
Each board will have a minimum size of five members comprised of community, municipal, and provincial representation.
“One of the things that they [the province]focus on in the framework is that it would ensure that each municipality and First Nation had the opportunity to represent their local perspectives, needs, and priorities. And also the intent of bringing both municipalities and First Nations together was to collaborate on efforts to enhance community safety,” she said.
Likewise, enhancing transparency, coordination, and the efficiency of policing is also a focus of the new legislation and police detachment boards.
According to the province, policing provided throughout Ontario must also adhere to:
- The importance of safeguarding the fundamental rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code.
- The need for cooperation between policing providers and the communities they serve.
- The importance of respect for victims of crime and understanding of their needs.
- The need for sensitivity to the pluralistic, multiracial, and multicultural character of Ontario society.
The province will establish an OPP governance advisory council which will seek input from local detachment boards and in turn report to the Solicitor General as well as the OPP commissioner.
For the Huntsville detachment police service board, the following composition is being proposed: two elected municipal representatives, one for the Township of Lake of Bays and one for the Town of Huntsville, one community representative per municipality, and one provincial appointee.
Stevens said consideration is also being given to having the District chair sit on the board or boards, which would bump the size of the boards by one additional member. She also suggested municipal representation could comprise the head of each council.
Under the current framework, municipalities would pay an honorarium to the members of the boards based on their size, plus incur administrative costs. Stevens said a submission to the province for funding to municipalities with more than one board has been made.
Huntsville Councillor Brian Thompson questioned the recommendation that the head of the council be the one to sit on the board. He also wondered why it was being recommended that the District chair be included.
Stevens said it is a way of ensuring information flows not only from the District to the local municipalities but between other boards as well.
Councillor Jason FitzGerald said there does not seem to be a disconnect between the upper and lower-tier councils in terms of the flow of information, “so I’m wondering if we should not limit ourselves and just make it a member of council.”
Stevens said she would take the feedback to be considered by District council. Staff are in the process of seeking consensus on the number and composition of the police boards in order to submit the plan to the province for approval.
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