Mandate

I was appointed by the Attorney General last August to conduct a consultative review aimed at evaluating the implementation of the 1999 Special Investigations Unit (SIU) reforms. The SIU is Ontario's civilian oversight body concerning death and serious injury of citizens arising in the course of police work. Those reforms stemmed from 25 consensus-based recommendations I facilitated between 1997 and 1998. [1] The Attorney General was also supportive of me again facilitating agreed upon changes in respect of any implementation issues which may have arisen. If other issues were identified and capable of being resolved by facilitated talks, I was asked to recommend an appropriate process.

On August 15, 2002 I wrote a letter to the groups and individuals I had met in the 1997/98 process and invited them to meet with me again. Unlike my last intervention, I was not given a defined set of issues to discuss with the parties. As a result, I asked those who were interested in meeting with me to provide, by September 15, 2002, a list of issues that they would like to discuss. My letter emphasized that I did not want to disrupt the ongoing efforts of the parties to cooperate and escalate existing differences. The responses I received came only from the police community. I toured the SIU offices on August 16, 2002 and asked the Director, Peter Tinsley, to provide me with the implementation status of the 25 recommendations. I received that update on October 25, 2002.

Stakeholder meetings took place during October, November and December. I met twice with most groups and individuals. While many of the organizations had met with me in the earlier 1997/98 process, several of the representatives I met this time had not previously participated. Understandably, therefore, there was some initial difficulty appreciating the difference between this review and the original intervention which had been aimed at producing fundamental change. The design of the review was to receive stakeholder views on the implementation during the first set of meetings and to exchange these perspectives during the second. Throughout the process, I also sought to explore the potential for agreed upon change in respect of implementation issues and other matters raised with me.

The process, of course, was not perfect. There was criticism that the review was too Toronto-centric. It was argued that "the communities" consulted appeared to be more advocates of a particular brand of oversight and, thus, were not really representative of community concerns or were too partisan. Other questioning of the process related to the absence of women's groups and interest groups specialized in disabilities and the need for a broader representation of Ontario's racialized communities.

The scope of the review largely tracked the original facilitation. It would have been difficult to broaden those to be consulted in a review. The experiences of Toronto, if one community had to be singled out, have contributed directly to the creation of the SIU. Many of the community groups most knowledgeable in SIU developments are located there. However, the provincial bodies that participated reflected regional concerns and, as in the original process, I traveled to Thunder Bay to consult with more northern interested representatives. Most groups who care deeply about a public policy are open to the charge of being advocates or too partisan. This criticism, therefore, is one that can be levelled at all groups and organizations participating in a public policy consultation. It was my job to assess the representations and to encourage a problem-solving approach.

I should also acknowledge the criticism that the review process was too focussed on consensus. It was argued that I should just "decide these issues as I see them." The Attorney General, I need to point out, did not request my independent opinion on all issues which might be raised other than as inherent in being asked to conduct "a review". Instead, he requested the facilitation of agreement and/or the recommendation of other consensus-based procedures which might be appropriate. In short, my mandate was not to provide a legal opinion or to recommend policy changes. However, I have found that in conducting this review some evaluative comment is clearly in order and clearly within the ambit of what the Attorney General would have expected me to do. However, this is an area of public policy where emotions run deep; where working relationships are easily disrupted; and, therefore, where a policy paralysis is possible when recommendations are made without broad underlying consensus. Therefore, a consensus-based policy-making orientation is a reasonable approach provided it does not result in its own inaction where change, however controversial, is demanded.

Finally, on process, I am thankful for the assistance of Mark Leach, Director of the Policy Branch at the Ministry of the Attorney General and John Lee, Counsel, at the Policy Branch. While I am responsible for the content of this report, their help in organizing and supporting the review was essential. I thank them for their hard work and professionalism.


Footnotes:

[1] G.W. Adams, Consultation Report of the Honourable George W. Adams, Q.C. to the Attorney General and Solicitor General Concerning Police Cooperation with the Special Investigations Unit (14 May 1988).