Thank you very much.
I'm in Kelowna because my wife and I are visiting friends in the interior of British Columbia, so although I'm usually in Toronto, today I'm in Kelowna. The weather out here is terrific.
I'm the coordinator of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition, an organization that's been around in Toronto since 2001. Our job is to propose progressive policies to the Toronto police board and the Toronto police force.
We've been dealing with lots of issues in the last 17 years. Some of the more recent ones are carding, how the police deal with those in mental crisis, the question of strip searches, racial profiling, police oversight, police training and police recruitment. TPAC has an electronic bulletin that is published bimonthly for free. It generally summarizes the kinds of things that are happening in Toronto and our thoughts about them.
TPAC has submitted briefs to the Toronto police board in support of a policy requiring Crown attorneys to report to the board in cases where a judge has concluded that an officer was not telling the truth under oath. That seems to happen three or more times a year in Toronto. The board has now adopted such a policy.
Our concern that we want to voice today is in regard to proposed section 657.01 of the bill. This section permits police evidence to be entered by way of affidavit. It says that affidavit evidence can be used for the presentation of routine police evidence.
I want to deal with some of the things that seem to be routine at the current time, at least in Toronto, and I suspect in other cities.
One is carding, where police stop citizens at the whim of the officer, who demands certain information of those stopped. Carding has been considered a routine of the police in Toronto and in Ontario until very recently, when the law was changed. We know that carding is basically done to black youth, and it's shown to involve racial discrimination. We think it's unreasonable to suggest that evidence gained this way should be provided to the court by way of affidavit.
Another routine police activity deals with arrest for the possession of marijuana. This is also infected with racial discrimination. Three times as many black people as white people per capita are arrested. Again, we think this is wrong and should not be allowed to happen by way of affidavit.
Thirdly, strip searches in Toronto are considered routine. At least 40% of all those arrested for any crime in Toronto are strip-searched, even though the Supreme Court of Canada has declared in its decision in 2001 that such searches should be rare, which we interpret to be less than 10%. As we know, the fact that strip searches have been done is in some cases a reason for the judge to throw charges out.
The other point we'd like to mention is that there are instances, which I've mentioned already, where police evidence in court is challenged as being untruthful. Sometimes officers give evidence that they know is untrue, and the courts struggle to determine what the truth actually is. Often, courts have to come to this decision on the basis of the officer's demeanour, and that would not be available by way of affidavit evidence.
We recognize that there are some cases where the police affidavit evidence may be challenged, but we aren't convinced that's a good way to proceed. It's sort of after the fact. We believe that this section should be deleted from the bill.
We do want to stress that we wish to support actions that shorten trials in order to save precious court time and resources. This is an issue that our organization has addressed. We think the way to proceed on that is by instituting pre-charge screening, where Crown prosecutors sit with officers to determine what charges should proceed.
This now happens in three provinces in Canada: British Columbia, Quebec and New Brunswick. In fact, there has been a very significant saving of time for courts because of pre-charge procedures. In Ontario, the charges that would actually proceed would be reduced from about 93,000 per year to 70,000 if pre-charge screening were in place and the same rules were adopted as those in Quebec.
Also, many fewer cases are stayed in courts or withdrawn. In Quebec, the numbers stayed or withdrawn—and that's where they have pre-charge screening—is 9%. In Ontario, it's 46%. If you want to save court time, forget about the affidavit evidence by officers and, instead, proceed by way of pre-charge screening.
That is our submission, which is respectfully given to the committee.
Thank you very much.