Province rejects Island municipalities’ request on composition of police board representation

MANITOULIN – It appears it will be a case of going back to the drawing board for the Manitoulin Municipal Association (MMA) in terms of the actual composition of representation on a new policing board model for the Island after a proposal it had made was turned down by the Ministry of the Solicitor General.

“Yes, our policing model proposal was not accepted,” stated Ken Noland, chair of the MMA, after receiving a letter from an official with the ministry recently. 

In a letter to the Township of Burpee and Mills dated August 31, Kiran Shahzad, senior policy advisor, community safety and intergovernmental policy branch with the Ministry of the Solicitor General reads, “thank you for your submission for Burpee and Mills as part of the Manitoulin detachment. We are currently reviewing the proposal and wanted to follow up on the composition requirements.” 

“As it stands, the proposed board does not meet the 20 percent community representation and 20 percent provincial representation requirement,” wrote Ms. Shahzad. “A 13-member board requires that three board members be community reps and three members be provincial appointees (20 percent of 13 is 2.6, round up to three), bringing the total to 15 members. Upon consideration, in order to maintain consistency and fairness in composition, the ministry will require that the proposed board include the appropriate number of community and provincial representatives to meet the 20 percent requirement.” 

“We wanted to have a total of four (community and provincial representatives on the board) from six, which would have worked out to nine municipalities having representation on the board, with two provincial appointees and two community representatives,” said Mr. Noland. However, he pointed out, “the provincial regulations say that we have to have three provincial appointees and three community representatives. We wanted to wind down the numbers because we had all agreed we are all drawing from the same pool, with a large geographical area but a small population, and it is always the same people that are always appointed. And with our proposal it would keep the board to a smaller board.”

Mr. Noland further pointed out, “they (ministry) never mentioned anything about our request for the police boards to be established after the provincial (and municipal) elections next year (2022). If the board is in place before then and these members undergo training as is required, after an election these same people may have been replaced and the process would have to begin again.”

Richard Stephens, mayor of the Municipality of Central Manitoulin told The Expositor, “The last email I received is that the ministry wanted us to have 20 percent community and 20 percent provincial appointees on the board. This would mean nine municipal reps (for each Island municipality) and three community reps and three provincial reps as well, so a total of 15 board members. This would be an awful lot of people being around the table.”

This issue, along with more concerns, were raised at the recent Manitoulin Community Policing Advisory Committee (CPAC) meeting. “I think one of the big concerns of the MMA is the legislation for the police boards is supposed to come out late in the fall and municipal elections are to take place in the fall of 2022. The MMA has requested the province delay putting the new legislation in place until after the elections are held, so if someone on the board is not reelected, the process wouldn’t have to start again,” said Bryan Barker, a Billings township councillor.  “We are one of the smaller areas, as an Island in the province (population wise), but I think there has been resolution among all Ontario municipalities that the implementation needs to be delayed until after the elections.”

Megan Moriarity, Manitoulin OPP Inspector said, “I understand other OPP detachment communities have passed the same resolution as the MMA. I know all municipalities are putting forward similar ideas and concerns.”

Al Boyd, CPAC chair, said at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) conference earlier this summer that at that time the province was talking about implementing the police boards early in 2022.  Under the Community Safety and Policing Act it provides for police boards to increase oversight and accountability by providing opportunities for greater civilian governance and input, and deals with police, First Nations policing, accountability and oversight, professionalism, and more.

Police board members will have to undergo training, with OPP training strategic planning and policies developed, said Mr. Boyd. “I will not be able to be part of the police board. One section indicates former OPP officers cannot be members of the board.”

Steve Shaffer, Central Manitoulin representative on CPAC said, “the burning question that everyone wants answers on as well is whether there is going to be any funding provided for the police boards. They are talking about having to go through intensive training, and possibly paying board and community members. Is there any funding coming for this.” 

Mr. Boyd said that he didn’t hear anything about that at the AMO conference. 

Mr. Barker said if the province insists on police board members undertaking training, “I think we would all expect that there would also be some funding provided as well. I agree this is a burning question that has not been answered so far. But there is going to be some costs involved.” 

“It sounds to me like a great deal of expertise and training is involved in this process,” said Wayne Bailey, of Burpee and Mills. “Board members are going to need to be reimbursed somewhat. People aren’t going to do this all out of the goodness of their heart.” 

Mr. Boyd also pointed out along with training for board members, police boards will have to put together yearly accountability reports, develop strategic plans and help with police budgets. “There is going to be a pile of work involved in all of this.”

As was reported in May, Manitoulin municipalities made it clear they want to have their own separate police advisory board, distinct from Espanola and the North Shore, and that each Island municipality must have representation.

“Having a representation of all nine municipalities on the board would require three additional members of the community being selected as well as three provincial appointees,” Al MacNevin, mayor of the Town of Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands said at the May MMA meeting. 

A subsequent letter from Sarah Caldwell and Joanna Reading of the Ministry of the Solicitor General suggested they might instead look at two community representatives and two provincially appointed representatives.

In a letter to Mayor MacNevin dated April 28 Ms. Caldwell wrote, “we’re hoping that there is indeed some flexibility on this, recognizing that you would potentially be pulling six persons from a relatively small area/population. To that end, the suggestion is that when the Manitoulin communities submit their proposal that you indicate your preference for two and two, rounding down to a little below 20 percent and we’ll work with that when it comes in.” 

The MMA proposal had been brought back to each of the Island councils for discussion and most municipalities suggested they would like their own representatives. 

At the MMA meeting in May Reeve Noland expressed his concern that the new board is supposed to be implemented in 2022 but potential municipal elections next year mean “we could be training someone to be on the police services board and two meetings in they could be gone. We need to press the province to hold off until after elections.” It was noted, however, that the current Community Police Advisory Council will remain in operation until police boards are fully implemented. 

“So, our proposal that we had put forward on behalf of the MMA municipalities has not been accepted,” said Mr. Noland.  “We will be scheduling a meeting in the near future to review our options, to look at our options and submit a new board proposal.”