Information and Privacy Commissioner calls for retention of public input in Policing Act amendments

The repeal would undermine the principles of transparency and accountability: IPC

Information and Privacy Commissioner calls for retention of public input in Policing Act amendments

In a recent submission to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, Patricia Kosseim, Ontario's Information and Privacy Commissioner, has voiced significant concerns regarding proposed amendments to the Community Safety and Policing Act, 2019 (CSPA) contained within Schedule 4 of Bill 157, the Enhancing Access to Justice Act, 2023.

The commissioner's remarks were submitted to the chair of the committee, Goldie Ghamari. They emphasized the importance of maintaining s. 262 of the CSPA, which mandates a transparent and accountable public consultation process for creating or amending critical regulations concerning policing.

The contentious s. 5 of Schedule 4 of Bill 157 proposes the repeal of s. 262, which lays down a framework ensuring public engagement in the legislative process concerning policing regulations. This section requires the Lieutenant Governor in Council to provide the public with essential information and a forty-five-day period for commentary before any new regulations are enacted. Additionally, it allows for judicial review if the mandated consultation process is bypassed, ensuring adherence to the prescribed steps for public involvement.

The IPC argued that s. 262's repeal would undermine the principles of transparency and accountability in regulating policing activities, which cover a broad spectrum of issues critical to the public interest. These include using information technology, handling personal information by law enforcement, conducting and overseeing street checks, using force protocols, and compliance with the Anti-Racism Act. By highlighting the parallel between s. 262 of the CSPA and s. 74 of the Personal Health Information Protection Act, 2004, which governs the transparency in enacting regulations affecting personal health information, the IPC commissioner underscored the essential role of public consultation in legislative processes.

Furthermore, the IPC pointed out that the current provisions allow the government flexibility to enact or amend regulations without public consultation in urgent situations or when the changes are minor or technical. This flexibility negates the need to repeal s. 262 entirely, as it does not hinder the government's ability to act swiftly when necessary.

The call to maintain s. 262 comes at a time when the use of emerging information technologies by police forces, such as artificial intelligence and facial recognition, raises significant privacy and access concerns. According to the IPC, the increasing public demand for greater transparency and accountability in police governance, particularly considering systemic discrimination issues, makes the case for preserving these public consultation requirements even stronger.

In closing her letter, Kosseim underscored the importance of ongoing, transparent, robust public and community engagement in policing regulation.

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