New police service board will need to be established for Manitoulin

Expositor file photo

MANITOULIN – Island municipalities have until June 7 to determine what a new police services board will look like for the Manitoulin detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP). The change is required under the Community Safety and Policing Act (CSPA), 2019, and will mean the end of the Manitoulin Community Police Advisory Committee, likely by the end of this year. 

A letter from Ontario’s Solicitor General Sylvia Jones’ office was sent out last Friday to all Island heads of council and First Nations. “In February 2020, the Ministry of the Solicitor General conducted seven regional roundtable sessions across the province,” the letter stated. “Discussions at these sessions focused on new OPP-related regulatory requirements under the (CSPA). Municipalities and First Nation communities receiving policing service from the OPP were invited to learn more about the requirements and to provide the ministry with feedback to inform the development of related regulatory proposals.”

In response to the feedback received, an OPP detachment board framework was developed that would allow affected municipalities and First Nations the flexibility to create a board that reflects community and local needs. “Under this framework, municipalities and First Nation communities receiving direct and/or supplemental services from an OPP detachment are being asked to submit one proposal (per detachment) indicating the composition of their board and, if needed, a rationale for multiple boards and the composition of each additional board,” Ms. Jones wrote.

The letter was to be included on the agenda for Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands (NEMI)’s council meeting last Tuesday, as well as the next Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) meeting, said NEMI Mayor Al MacNevin. First Nation communities on Manitoulin have separate agreements with the federal government and have their own (UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service and Wikwemikong Tribal Police Service) police service boards, so he said he understands they will not be part of the new police service board for the Island, he noted.

“The difficulty will be in the nine municipalities, including Cockburn Island, coming to a consensus on the composition of the board,” said Mayor MacNevin. “It looks like municipalities have to come to a consensus on what the board looks like, and one lead municipality needs to submit the proposal by June 7, so there’s not a lot of time.” It is expected that boards will be established by fall 2021. The existing CPAC will continue until the CSPA comes into force, at which time they will be dissolved and transition to the new OPP detachment board model.

Mayor MacNevin said he doesn’t see the board having less than 15 members, with nine municipal representatives, three community representatives and three people appointed by the province. There is a proposal in place for Espanola and Manitoulin to have separate boards.  Twenty percent of the new board must be appointed and 20 percent must be community representatives, not municipal representatives. Names of those who will participate on the detachment board are not required to be submitted by June 7. 

The solicitor general’s letter indicated the ministry will work with and support municipalities and First Nations in submitting a completed proposal. If a proposal does not meet minimum requirements or if consensus on composition is not reached, however, the ministry will determine the composition of the detachment board. 

Under the OPP detachment board proposal process Ontario passed the Comprehensive Ontario Police Services Act, 2019, as Bill 68, and established the CSPA which, once in force, will repeal the Police Services Act, 1990. Section 67 of the CSPA requires there be an OPP detachment board, or more than one OPP detachment boards, for each detachment of the OPP that provides policing in a municipality or in a First Nations community. The ministry is required to develop a regulation related to the composition of each board; to achieve this, the ministry developed the OPP detachment board framework. 

The new framework will provide civilian guidance to 326 municipalities and 43 First Nations including those that are directly policed by the OPP; those that employ their own First Nations constables but receive administrative support from the OPP; or First Nations that receive dedicated OPP policing. The intent of the framework is to enhance civilian governance by ensuring that municipalities and First Nations receive OPP services and supports that represent local perspectives, needs and priorities and provide opportunities for municipalities and First Nations to collaborate on efforts to improve community safety. 

“We knew this was coming,” said Al Boyd, chair of Manitoulin’s CPAC. “In one sense, municipalities will have a larger voice in policing than CPAC as we are an advisory board. We can provide input to the OPP and our inspector is excellent at relaying our concerns, but police service boards can dictate police enforcing bylaws, for instance.”

“These boards are not unheard of,” Mr. Boyd said. “Espanola had one when they were part of the OPP and both Wiikwemkoong and UCCM Police have police service boards. Yes, the government put out a declaration under the Police Services Act, Section 10 that advisory committees would be dissolved and police service boards implemented. We’ll see what happens. With the police services board we will have a lot more input on how policing occurs on the Island.”

Mr. Boyd said he thinks it will be next year before the new police services board is in place and operational. “We have to submit a proposal by June 7. That will probably not get approved until fall. There will be a process for board members; it will require a resume and hiring review at the least. Incoming board members will need training. We (CPAC) will probably dissolve at the end of this year and then the new police services board will be introduced.”

The Island already has models that can inform committee structure, suggested Mayor MacNevin. He referred to the Manitoulin Centennial Manor board and Manitoulin-Sudbury District Services Board which consist of representatives from different municipalities. “With the police service boards, every municipality will need to be represented,” he noted. “The trick is to get nine municipalities to agree on the same model.”

There will be no doubt be some associated costs with the new board, he added. “At this point I don’t know what those are. Some police boards have honourariums and administration staff but it isn’t automatic that this will be the case here.” 

The process is just getting underway, said Mayor McNevin. “We will be speaking to councils and we’re hoping that all Island councils will look at this and with MMA input also, we can come up with a common direction. If we don’t, it will be created for us.”