This transcript was taken from the BC Legislature’s website.

West Coast LEAF

H. Jabir: Good morning. My name is Humera, and I use she/her pronouns. I am a staff lawyer at West Coast LEAF and a settler living on the homelands of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations.

I’d like to thank you for inviting West Coast LEAF to speak here today. West Coast LEAF is a B.C.-based legal advocacy organization founded in 1985. We use legal strategies to create an equal and just society for all women and people who experience gender-based discrimination.

We have made ten recommendations in our written submissions. However, today my remarks are structured around four main points:

  1. Police Act reform must ensure Indigenous rights and autonomy.
  2. This reform should demonstrate a deep appreciation of how gender shapes experiences of policing.
  3. It must be aimed at achieving substantive equality.
  4. It must be grounded in a fundamental shift in how we understand community safety and need.

As a priority, and to make the commitment to truth and reconciliation meaningful, we ask this committee to listen to the calls of Indigenous nations, communities and peoples for autonomy over policing in accordance with self-determination and the province’s obligations under UNDRIP.

The committee’s recommendations must also be responsive to the diverse experiences, needs and interests of women, two-spirit people, intersex people, gender non-conforming people, trans people of all genders and people with non-binary gender identities. There is overwhelming evidence of gender-based intersectional discrimination in policing, and we have outlined that context in our written submissions.

[10:35 a.m.]
Practices such as street checks, which disproportionally impact Black and Indigenous women, need to come to an end. Additionally, we ask the committee to implement the calls to justice of the national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls which are specifically directed at policing and law reform.

Reform to policing and police accountability must ultimately advance a shared societal commitment to achieving substantive equality. We have tried to make recommendations related to substantive equality specifically. We recommend that the Police Act be revised to include a statement of principles that is inclusive of the right to self-determination for Indigenous Peoples and the obligation of police to safeguard human rights. While such a statement is by no means a cure-all, we see value in enshrining the right to equality and non-discrimination within the text of the Police Act and to frame the purpose and limitations of policing.

In addition, we recommend that police departments be audited routinely against equality indicators as a condition of funding and show that discrimination is being tackled at a system level. An approach to reform that is aimed at rooting out the few bad apples or training away racism, sexism, transphobia or other forms of bias is ineffective when, as other presenters have mentioned, it is deeply entrenched cultural norms in policing, such as a reliance on stereotypes, disconnect from community, a warrior mentality and codes of silence, that must be broken down if policing is to be reformed for the future.

We also would like to see fundamental changes to the structure of police accountability. The current processes are not accessible, inclusive or trusted. In our written submissions, we have shared over a dozen recommendations for how police accountability can be overhauled to advance substantive equality, such as bringing an end to the model of police investigating police, establishing a new allegation for misconduct for discrimination or bias and revising the definition of serious harm in the act to include sexual- and gender-based violence.

The majority of persons working in police oversight in Canada are white men who are former police officers. While anti-bias training of employees is a necessity, this training cannot make up for lived experiences. We are asking this committee to consider structural changes, such as a process for monitoring of police accountability by diverse communities and monitors with expertise in gender-based violence. We also would like to see a process for civil society interventions in police accountability.

We further urge this committee to adopt a coordinated approach to rebuilding the community and social sector, with the recognition that police reform is only one part of the picture. And we share that view with many organizations — that police ought to be detasked where possible and that funding that would otherwise go to policing should be put towards reinvesting in services that support communities on their own terms.

So to conclude, I would like to emphasize that it’s really, I think, important to note that women’s and feminist organizations have appeared before this committee in force. We urge you to listen closely to the many feminist voices and the people and communities with lived experiences of policing. The status quo cannot be maintained, and nor will tinkering on the edges of the Police Act be meaningful reform. We are asking this committee to make structural changes to policing and police accountability. Thank you.

D. Routley (Chair): Thank you very much. I should note that the committee makes recommendations for changes and isn’t able, actually, to implement change. But these recommendations are important, and we appreciate that advice.

With that, I’ll open the floor to questions from committee members.

A. Olsen: I don’t have any actual direct questions coming out. I think that it is a tribute to the quality of the presentation just in terms of the clarity with which you’ve delivered your recommendations in both written form and, as well, today in your presentations.

I was listening in when Mr. Love was providing his presentation, and I just think that it’s important to acknowledge the comment that was made that the Mental Health Act is not a criminal statute. I think it just kind of flowed through.

[10:40 a.m.]
It was an important foundational comment, from my perspective, in that I think it was built on by every one of the following presenters, just with respect to how we approach addressing mental health. I think Mr. Miller talked about the criminalization of poverty and developmental disabilities or different abilities and addiction. I just really appreciate that kind of foundational statement.

Then just to Humera’s final point, I heard it loud and clear. I see it, and I recognize it. It is something that is going to have to be pointed out here — the number of powerful voices of women coming forward, feminists coming forward. I just want to acknowledge that I’ve heard that and that it will be a commitment I make — to make sure that, from my voice, those recommendations are reflected in the recommendations that we make.

Thank you for that final statement. It’s very important.

R. Glumac: We’ve heard many presenters over the last few months, and definitely some common themes are coming through. One of the things that I find helpful and interesting is looking at other jurisdictions and where they’re having success and doing things differently or in a more modernized way, perhaps.

Some examples. In New Zealand, their dispatch system allows someone who’s calling in to connect directly to a mental health professional. We’ve heard about the CAHOOTS model in Oregon and the Memphis model of policing.

My question to any of the presenters today would be: do you have any recommendations on other models that you see as being positive and worthy of consideration when we’re looking at our own system? Or do you have any comments on the ones that I’ve mentioned?

M. Miller: I’ll just quickly comment, and someone else can jump in. Certainly, I’m familiar with the CAHOOTS model. It is something that I think is working very well and has worked very well in that particular community for an extended period of time. I think the LEAD program, as well, in the U.S. is something that is seeing some positive — where law enforcement is diverting people to services, as opposed to custody.

I know there are lots of initiatives, but that’s clearly, I think, something in our communities that we need to do more of and better at. We’ve looked, as well, at the Australia model, with MACNI, multiple and complex needs initiative, where they actually have legislation that addresses multiple and complex needs. And then a support process is in place to access funding from multiple ministries, recognizing that many of the individuals that require support require support from multiple locations.

Sometimes navigating the intersection between those services is very challenging, so we would encourage…. Any of those is very relevant.

G. Lore: Really grateful for your written submissions and your presentations here today. In particular, I think there are some really interesting and concrete ideas here. I think the comments around overtime and the impact of fatigue on all our ability to do our best work, the ideas around special training for officers in that window where those other services that folks often need are not available — these are all really interesting ideas, and I really appreciate them coming from…. Of course they come from community and the front line, with that expertise that you all have.

[10:45 a.m.]
Humera, my question is for you. You mentioned really extensive and concrete suggestions around what are largely legislative changes to facilitate increased accountability. I’m particularly interested in some of the things in your submission around extending and revising the allegations for police misconduct, but also around what is considered “serious harm.” I’m just wondering if you wanted to say a few more words about those recommendations and why you see them as important.

H. Jabir: Certainly. I think there’s lots of room within the legislation for the allegations of misconduct and what is being focused on to be changed to reflect substantive equality. That includes ensuring that discrimination and bias is being targeted in terms of what is a type of complaint that can be brought forward and assessed under the legislation.

With respect to serious harm, we’re really echoing others in this recommendation as well. This has been brought forward by EVA B.C., by the BCCLA and by Justice for Girls as well, in terms of the definition of “serious harm” in the legislation being extended to include sexual harm and gender-based violence or gender-based harm by police officers. I think that that goes towards the independent investigations office’s mandate at this time. So there are number of sort of concrete….

I also want to echo what Mark was saying in terms of support persons and support through the complaint process, because that is a huge component for substantive equality of individuals of diverse backgrounds with diverse needs and interests being able to access police accountability. So we have set those out within our written submissions.

I think I’d also like to highlight the participation and trying to find ways of ensuring participation from diverse communities, within police accountability. The recommendation that we have made is for the participation of civilian monitors from those communities.

From a women’s and feminist perspective, I would say that there’s a long-standing sense of the ways in which patriarchy and misogyny can end up excluding the experiences of women and gender-diverse peoples within political and government processes. I hope that’s something that the committee can really look at: how can that lived experience of monitoring and participation in police accountability be brought back in?

K. Kirkpatrick: Thank you all very much. Very well stated and communicated. I know you have a very short period of time in which to share this information with us. Very common themes to what we’ve been hearing.

I do have a question for Tamara. It’s very concerning — the protection of personal information and access to personal information about myself. I would have thought that there would be more access to that, and I thought reviews by the Privacy Commissioner from redacted information would lean toward the protection of the person as opposed to the organization. So it was very interesting to learn about it.

Just out of curiosity, in terms of Mr. Lewis, would the Innocence Project still look at pursuing a posthumous exoneration for him? Is that still ongoing?

T. Levy: It is ongoing. His case is with the criminal conviction review group with the Department of Justice now. They expedited the process in an effort to try to do something before he passed away, but we just didn’t make it in time. The lawyers for the CCRG in Ottawa, the criminal conviction review group, have the delegated powers of commissioners, and they can access documents that we’re not able to. But it’s a bit of a catch-22, because to apply to the minister, you have to go with new and significant evidence, and as I said, in most wrongful-conviction cases, the new and significant evidence is in the file.

We’re now in a position where, because we’ve had such problems with freedom of information and getting people’s files — which they would have already had at the time they were convicted, or at least part of the file — it really limits us in what we can do going forward.

[10:50 a.m.]
We’re hoping that in this new consultation process and with a new board to review wrongful convictions, some of those disclosure issues will be identified. Even the Department of Justice has problems getting the information from the police in a timely fashion, so it’s not just us.

K. Kirkpatrick: Thanks for the work that the Innocence Project does — much appreciated.

D. Routley (Chair): Thank you, Members. I do not see any more questions.

I’d like to thank our presenters, all of you, for your contribution — a very important and broad task that we have in examining all that’s in our terms of reference. We appreciate the views of every person who comes before our committee. We really thank you for your submission and your presentation today. I hope you go away feeling as though you’ve contributed to our province, because you have. Thank you.

Okay, Members. We have a bit of time here for deliberation.

K. Riarh (Clerk to the Committee): Sorry, Doug. Did you want to take a recess?

D. Routley (Chair): Yes. I think we’ll take recess now.

The committee recessed from 10:51 a.m. to 11:07 a.m.