Ontario Human Rights Tribunal can hear police bias cases

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Ontario Human Rights Tribunal can hear police bias cases

Postby Thomas » Fri May 29, 2015 3:49 am

Divisional court ruling means rights body can award damages even in cases also probed by civilian police watchdog

"This decision recognizes that these two distinct streams don’t offer an individual who has been the victim of alleged police misconduct the same remedy,” said Roger Love of the African Canadian Legal Clinic.

A court has upheld the authority of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal to hear allegations of police discrimination, even if a case has been investigated and dismissed by the province’s civilian police watchdog.

A divisional court panel of three judges released the decision Wednesday, turning down an application by the OPP that would have forced the tribunal to stop hearing cases — as it has since 2013 — that are also being investigated by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.

The decision notes the police complaint process can only result in discipline to the officer, whereas a human rights application could result in the tribunal ordering police to not only pay monetary damages, but to make systemic changes.

“The victims of discrimination, who are often from marginalized communities, may be forced to choose which route to take when they often do not have access to the information necessary to make this choice a meaningful one,” wrote the judges.

“This decision recognizes that these two distinct streams don’t offer an individual who has been the victim of alleged police misconduct the same remedy,” said Roger Love, a lawyer with the African Canadian Legal Clinic, who was involved in the case as part of the Coalition of Legal Clinics.

Bruce Best, a lawyer with the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, says the decision should be binding for all police forces across the province and could have broad implications for other professional oversight bodies.

The divisional court decision also upheld the tribunal’s right to hear alleged discrimination complaints against doctors even if a similar complaint has been launched at the College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Best, along with Love and many other groups including the OIPRD, argued in support of the tribunal at court hearings last month.

Gerry McNeilly, director of the OIPRD, said he recognized that the human rights tribunal and a complaint under the Police Services Act “can actually complement each other in trying to address discriminatory police conduct.” And he said having to choose between the options could “undermine the integrity and public confidence of the public complaints system.”

The OPP can seek leave to appeal within a 15-day period. The force did not respond to a request for comment.

The case began after Dean De Lottinville, a black man, alleged racial discrimination after a 2009 incident in Elliot Lake involving two OPP officers. De Lottinville launched a police complaint —his allegations were found to be unsubstantiated — then filed a human rights complaint.

The rights tribunal would normally have dismissed his case, based on years of successful arguments by police lawyers that the Human Rights Code prevents duplication of the legal proceedings.

But in 2013, the rights tribunal considered his case along with two other racial profiling allegations, and decided it would no longer turn away the cases.

The OPP and a doctor involved in a separate discrimination case that had been investigated by the College fought the tribunal’s ruling in divisional court.

The court decision also noted the vast majority of complaints to the OIPRD are redirected to the originating police force for investigation, including De Lottinville’s.

In 2013-14, the OIPRD referred 1,091 conduct cases back to the police service where the complaint originated. Three were sent to other services. The organization retained 136 cases for investigation.

“In Mr. De Lottinville’s case … it was the Chief of Police who appointed the investigator, who investigated the complaint and who decided that the complaint should not proceed to a hearing,” stated the court decision. “If the effect of the Chief’s determination is to insulate him from any further requirement to take action or pay compensation, this would … have the effect of allowing the Chief” to judge his own case.

http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2015/05 ... cases.html

http://rabble.ca/news/2015/06/ruling-op ... complaints
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