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Democracy Watch calls on Ontario police commission and review director to investigate Premier Ford’s Chief of Staff for attempted pressure on police forces

Documents revealed by Globe and Mail show Chief of Staff Dean French demanding Ontario government employees pressure police forces to charge cannabis stores

Thursday, May 16, 2019

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch released the letter it has sent to Interim Independent Police Review Director Sylvana Capogreco (OIPRD) and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) requesting an investigation and public ruling on the effects of the actions of Dean French, Chief of Staff for Premier Doug Ford, to determine first if he pressured any police forces in Ontario directly to change their enforcement policies or practices concerning cannabis stores.

As well, Democracy Watch’s letter requests an investigation and public ruling concerning whether any Ontario government employees or appointees pressured police forces to change these enforcement policies or practices in response to demands made by Mr. French mainly and also, through a meeting with some employees and appointees, a demand made by Premier Ford, Attorney General Caroline Mulroney and Minister of Finance Vic Fedeli.

The demand Mr. French allegedly made to some Ontario government employees to pressure police forces was first reported last November in the Toronto Star. A Globe and Mail article this week contains more details about the demands that Mr. French, Premier Ford and the other ministers allegedly made to some Ontario government employees.

Democracy Watch’s letter also requests that OIPRD conduct a systemic issue review under section 57 of the Police Services Act of political pressure on Ontario police forces, given that the reported pressure was aimed at police forces across the province.

Democracy Watch’s letter requests OIPRD investigate in conjunction with the OCPC, and also that the OCPC specifically investigate under section 25(1)(a) of the Act the “performance of duties” of Mark Saunders, Chief of Toronto Police Services, given (according to the Globe and Mail article linked above) his reported communication of with Mr. French expressing “concerns” with how Justices of the Peace were handling cases involving cannabis stores.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled in R. v. Campbell, [1999] 1 SCR 565, that police are “not to be considered a servant or agent of the government while engaged in a criminal investigation” and are “not subject to political direction” (para. 33). As well, the SCC ruled in Valente v. The Queen, [1985] 2 SCR 673 and other cases that justices must be independent, especially from Cabinet (para. 15).

The 2007 Ipperwash Inquiry Report policy section summary recommended new rules and processes be enacted to ensure that the exchanges of information between police and government “do not become covert or veiled attempts to inappropriately direct police operations” in law enforcement (p. 93). The Ontario government has not enacted any of those recommendations.

“Law enforcement decisions by police forces and judges must be free from political pressure in order to ensure fair and impartial law enforcement, and an investigation is needed to determine if Premier Ford’s Chief of Staff Dean French or any other government official even attempted to pressure police anywhere in Ontario,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch. “As well, the communications between Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and Dean French need to be investigated to determine what actions they took given their concerns about justice of the peace rulings on court cases.”

“Hopefully the OIPRD and OCPC will investigate this serious situation to ensure that police and justices were not pressured by any government officials, and to again call for changes to ensure they are effectively protected from government pressure at all times in all cases,” said Conacher.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179 Cell: 416-546-3443
[email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Stop Unfair Law Enforcement Campaign