New Legislation in Effect Today for SIU
(1 December, 2020) ---
After more than 30 years of operating under the Police Services Act, the SIU now has its own governing legislation - the Special Investigations Unit Act (SIUA). The new legislation will serve to strengthen civilian oversight of law enforcement and will result in greater transparency. Here are some of the major ways the SIU – an independent civilian agency– is changing:
Who the SIU can investigate
The SIU has always been mandated to investigate occurrences across Ontario involving all municipal, regional and provincial police officers. Now, the SIU will also have jurisdiction over special constables employed by the Niagara Parks Commission and peace officers with the Legislative Protective Service. Anyone the SIU is mandated to investigate is defined as an “official” under the SIUA.
What the SIU can investigate
In addition to its historical jurisdiction of investigating incidents involving the police where there has been death, serious injury or an allegation of sexual assault, the SIU will now also investigate all instances where an official discharged a firearm at a person, whether or not the person died or was seriously injured.
Previously, the definition of “serious injury” was not in legislation. It has now been codified.
Also, prior to the new legislation, allegations of sexual assault fell under the serious injury umbrella. In the new legislation, allegations of sexual assault are an independent category of cases triggering the SIU’s mandate.
With respect to the SIU’s statutory jurisdiction, the previous legislation did not differentiate between on-duty and off-duty police officers. The new legislation specifies that the SIU can only investigate an off-duty official if the official was engaged in the investigation, pursuit, detention or arrest of a person or otherwise exercised the powers of a police officer, special constable or peace officer. It also says the SIU can investigate an off-duty incident if it involved equipment or other property issued to the official in relation to his or her duties.
Due to complexity or circumstances, investigations sometimes require a significant amount of time to complete. The length of time might be impacted by factors such as how long it took to conduct interviews and/or gather and analyze evidence. In many instances, the Unit must also await receipt of reports from outside organizations such as the Centre of Forensic Sciences or the Coroner’s Office. While the SIU recognizes it is important to resolve cases in a timely manner, the thoroughness of the investigation must take precedence over the length of time it takes to finish an investigation.
The new legislation requires the SIU to explain delays every 30 days past the 120-day mark of an on-going investigation. In fact, the SIU began this practice in 2017 through a Status of SIU Cases chart posted to the Unit’s website, in an effort to keep the citizens of Ontario up-to-date on the progress of our investigations. The chart can be found here
. For each investigation launched, the chart includes the case number, case type, involved police service, when the SIU was notified and the status of the investigation.
As of May 1, 2017, the Attorney General began publicly posting SIU Director’s Reports to: https://www.ontario.ca/page/special-investigations-unit-siu-directors-reports
. Effective December 1, 2018, the SIU – with authorization from the Attorney General – assumed responsibility for posting the Director’s Reports on the SIU website. The previous legislation mandated that the SIU Director provide his/her report solely to the Attorney General.
The new legislation mandates the publishing of these Reports on the SIU website.
Duty to Comply
The former “duty to cooperate” that bound police officers in relation to SIU requests is now a “duty to comply”, which applies to all officials. An individual who fails to comply is guilty of an offence and could be subject to a penalty.
The SIU is an independent government agency that investigates the conduct of officials (police officers as well as special constables with the Niagara Parks Commission and peace officers with the Legislative Protective Service) that may have resulted in death, serious injury, sexual assault and/or the discharge of a firearm at a person. All investigations are conducted by SIU investigators who are civilians. Under the Special Investigations Unit Act, the Director of the SIU must
- consider whether the official has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation
- depending on the evidence, cause a criminal charge to be laid against the official where grounds exist for doing so, or close the file without any charges being laid
- publicly report the results of its investigations
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SIU Communications/Service des communications, UES