Toronto man battles to get licence back amid bureaucratic nightmare


This year, on Family Day, Strachan was pulled over by an OPP officer.  He was told that his licence was under suspension, and had been since 2013.  When he went to Service Ontario to pay whatever fine may be outstanding, he was told he would have to re-apply for a driver’s licence and to through the entire process again, despite having been licensed for 24 years. photo by

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James Strachan stunned to discover his licence was suspended — four years after the fact — after he was late to pay a speeding ticket. Now the province wants him to start over like he’s a brand new driver.

James Strachan is fighting to get his licence back amid a bureaucratic nightmare that stems from paying a speeding ticket a couple of months late.

Strachan is 40 years old, works downtown, lives in a semi-detached house in Leslieville with his dog, a Great Dane named Nina Simone, and says he’s never been in trouble in his life.

He’s had parking tickets, and he did receive a couple of speeding tickets over the years, but they weren’t anything serious. The last one, back in 2013, was issued on the 401 out near Oshawa and the citation said he was going 15 kilometres over the speed limit.

He put the ticket in the glove box and forgot about it.

Weeks later — he got the ticket in February 2013, and by this time it was July — he went looking for something in the glove box and came across the ticket. The next day he went to a ministry of transportation office downtown and paid it, plus an additional fine for being late with payment. Then he forgot all about it again.

Four years later, on the Family Day long weekend of this year, he was driving near Huntsville when he was pulled over by the OPP. The officer told him that his licence was under suspension — and had been since 2013.

“The cop,” said Strachan, “who was a very nice and polite guy, was driving one of those new cruisers that have technology to automatically scan and check every plate they encounter. My driver’s abstract came up on the computer screen and showed that my licence was under suspension.

“I was shocked; it was news to me.”

Strachan, who works in a legal capacity for a Crown corporation, was with a friend who drove them back to Toronto.

The OPP officer had suggested he go to a Service Ontario office to have his licence reinstated, so Strachan went to a kiosk in a store on Lake Shore Blvd. He paid $150, expecting to get his licence back.

Only then, after he had paid, was he told that his licence could not be reinstated. For that to happen, he was told, he would have to go through the province’s graduated licensing program from scratch, a process that can take up to two years and cost about $300, plus tax.

Graduated licensing is geared to help new drivers get driving experience gradually. It involves two road tests — the first to get from level one to level two (after which the new driver doesn’t have to have a licensed driver in the vehicle with them) and the second to earn full driving privileges.

Strachan is not happy about this state of affairs. He’s been driving for 24 years — since he was 16. He is determined that one way or another, whether it be through the courts or by embarrassing the ministry, he will get his licence reinstated without having to jump through hoops.

“I can understand a policy that has people go through the (graduated licensing) program who haven’t driven anything for three or four years,” he told the Star in an interview. “But I’ve been driving the whole time. To make me start over, right from the beginning, is preposterous.”

Strachan says he was never informed by anyone — the ministry, his insurance company, Service Ontario — that his licence was suspended.

“I’m not saying the ministry didn’t try to inform me,” he said. “I’m saying that I wasn’t informed. The ministry might well have sent a letter telling me of the suspension but I didn’t receive it. Somebody else might have found it in their mailbox, but I never received anything telling me this.”

Strachan also says he can’t figure out how he could have renewed his licence plate sticker at least twice, purchased another car and renewed his auto insurance several times without somebody pointing out to him that his licence was under suspension.

Bob Nichols, a spokesman for the ministry, told the Star in an email that while Strachan might have paid a higher fine back in 2013 because he was late paying off the ticket, records show he did not pay a reinstatement fee at that time.

Strachan says that, because he was not notified of the suspension, he didn’t think to ask about any reinstatement fee and that the clerk at the ministry office didn’t volunteer the information that his licence was suspended.

“While I wouldn’t have been thrilled to pay the $150 back in 2013,” he said, “I’d certainly have done it had anybody ever bothered to tell me. Why they would think anyone would put themselves into this predicament voluntarily is beyond comprehension.”

Wrote Nichols: “We’ve talked to this particular individual and have explained how and why we require retesting. Drivers are informed on their ticket that the driver’s licence can be suspended if no action is taken within a certain timeframe.

“A Notice of Suspension (NOS) is then sent to the driver advising of the unpaid fine and suspension and the steps required to reinstate their driver’s licence, including paying the reinstatement fee. Information on the back of the NOS advises that if the reinstatement is not paid, the licence will be cancelled without further notice.”

Nichols noted that if a person hasn’t had a valid driver’s licence for three years, they would have to go through the graduated licensing process as set out in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act. The driver must also successfully undergo a vision, knowledge and road test, and pay the applicable fees, he said.

He added: “The suspension was not flagged when he renewed his licence plates because the ministry does not require an applicant to hold a valid driver’s licence when renewing a vehicle licence plate and/or registering a vehicle in Ontario.”

Strachan called this “a bureaucratic bit of nonsense,” and disputed several things Nichols had said.

“I have not talked to anyone from the ministry,” Strachan said. “To say that the ministry has talked to me is false. When this happened, I wrote Minister (Steven) Del Duca to ask for an explanation and asked nine specific questions. In reply, I got back something that read like a form letter and which did not answer even one of my questions. It was signed ‘VJ119.’

“I have no idea if that is even a person. That, plus a computer-generated acknowledgement of the receipt of a second email, is the only contact I have had with the ministry. I wrote the minister again and this time made a suggestion. O. Reg. 340/94, s. 24 (1) says that when there is a dispute, a temporary licence may be issued while there is an investigation. I suggested they could do this for me while this got straightened out but so far I have not received any further correspondence.

“And if it’s true that the ministry does not require a driver’s licence in order for someone to renew plates, why does it ask for that information on the application?”

Strachan misses driving his car but says it’s not the end of the world. Yes, he’s had to make some adjustments: he can’t drive his dog down to Cherry Beach to run but he exercises her in a park closer to home; he plays recreational hockey but the organization he plays in and the rink are near the northern border of North York and a return trip on public transit can take anywhere from three to four hours so he doesn’t play as often. Nor does he see his family as much. He always took transit to work, so that hasn’t changed.

So where does Strachan go from here?

“I haven’t decided,” he said. “I’m considering a lawsuit — or maybe I’ll just gate-crash the minister’s office. I’m told he doesn’t have discretionary powers in situations like this, that he can’t overrule anything or anyone, and I find that clearly bizarre.

“This whole thing defies comprehension and would appear to not be safety-driven, which I can appreciate, but revenue-driven, which I understand but don’t necessarily condone.”

Asked if the transportation ministry could tell the Star the number of drivers who have to be retested each year because they haven’t had a valid licence for more than three years, spokesman Nichols emailed back:

“We do not have that information readily available. To obtain the data, a special request would need to be submitted . . . We would then be able to provide the estimated time and cost of the request.”

Strachan said that, by coincidence, he was telling a friend about his problem and the friend replied that something similar had happened to him but that he’d had to pay the reinstatement fee before he could receive his sticker.

“I have a feeling this might be bigger than just me,” he said.


Flood or Sewer Back-Up Claims against the City of Toronto


When making a claim against the City for flood or sewer back-up damages it’s important to note that the City will not be responsible for your property damage if the City’s Toronto Water division has met installation and maintenance standards for its water and sewage systems.

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Flood Claims

Making a claim against the City of Toronto

When making a claim against the City for flood or sewer back-up damages it’s important to note that the City will not be responsible for your property damage if the City’s Toronto Water division has met installation and maintenance standards for its water and sewage systems, specifically:


  • Installation of water or sewer service was completed in accordance with the engineering practices that prevailed at the time.


  • A reasonable maintenance system is in place and adhered to. This includes proactive measures to prevent water and sewage systems from failure and to ensure mechanisms are in place to enable the City to respond appropriately to system failures.

Watermain breaks or sewer backups can be attributed to causes other than the City’s failure to properly install or maintain its infrastructure. The weather, for example, can have a significant impact.

The pressures created by the freeze/thaw cycles during the winter can also place a significant amount of strain on watermains. These pressures often result in leaks and ruptures. Severe weather systems that pass through the City can also strain the sewer system.

Significant rainfall over a short period of time can result in the City’s storm and combined sewers taking in more water than they are designed to accommodate, resulting in sewer backups.

  1. How to file a claim
  2. Claims Investigation
  3. If your claim is denied
  4. When Claims involve contracted companies
  5. Other Related Links
  6. How to file a claim

According to the City of Toronto Act you are required to submit a claim letter or e-mail to the City Clerk for property damage or injury.
The claim letter should include the following:

  • Your name, home address, phone number and e-mail address
  • Date, time and location of accident which caused the property damage or injury
  • Exact municipal address including a diagram and/or photo of accident location must be submitted with claim letter
  • Describe how the accident happened and names, phone numbers of any witnesses
  • Detailed description of your property damage or injury
  • Include documentation that you believe support your claim such as: photos, receipts and estimates
  • Outline why you believe the City is responsible for the accident
  • Did you report this accident to the City, if so, please provide name(s) of City staff involved
  • If a City contractor was involved please provide contractor’s name

Important Note:

  • Failure to provide exact municipal address will delay the processing of your claim
  • Scanned documents are acceptable- there is limit of 10 MB for each e-mail transmission

Where to submit your claim letter
Your claim letter can be received by e-mail, mail or fax

E-mail:[email protected]
Mail:City Clerk’s Office- Claims
City Hall
100 Queen Street West,
9th Floor, West Tower
Toronto, Ontario, M5H 2N2

The City Clerk’s Office forwards all claims to the City of Toronto’s insurance adjusters, ClaimsPro, for evaluation.

If you submitted by e-mail:

  • Claim letters submitted by e-mail will be acknowledged by the City Clerk’s Office within two business days upon receipt of your e-mail.
  • ClaimsPro will send an initial acknowledgement e-mail within two business day upon receipt of your e-mail from the City Clerk’s Office.
  • A ClaimsPro Claims Adjuster will be assigned to investigate your claim and will also send you an acknowledgement e-mail within two business days of being assigned the claim.

If you submitted by mail or fax:

  • Claim letters submitted by mail or fax should receive an acknowledgement letter from the City Clerk’s Office within ten business days upon receipt of your letter.
  • ClaimsPro will send an acknowledgement letter within two business days upon receipt of your letter from the City Clerk’s Office.
  • A ClaimsPro Claims Adjuster will be assigned to investigate your claim and will also send you an acknowledgement letter within two business days of being assigned the claim.
  • Generally, you should receive an acknowledgment letter within 10 business days, however delays may occur due to mail and courier service.

The ClaimsPro Claims Adjuster is your contact person for the status of your claim.

If you do not receive an acknowledgement letter please contact ClaimsPro at 416-252-4431.

  1. Claims Investigation

There will be an investigation by the City’s adjusters to determine if the City is responsible for your loss.

The investigation will consist of gathering information from you and Toronto Water. Records from the division will be reviewed to determine if reasonable maintenance, response time and installation standards were met. Division records are found in Toronto Water’s Hansen work management system database and may include service request details, completed work orders, summaries of service requests and records of preventative maintenance. In addition, Environment Canada weather records (to track temperatures and precipitation), City of Toronto rain gauge records (in the event of a severe weather system passing through the City at the time of the loss) and information about contractors or third parties that may have been carrying out work at or near the site of the incident, are collected and reviewed. If the applicable standards have not been met, the adjuster will contact you in an effort to resolve your claim.

Typically, property damage claims are completed within 90 days.

In cases of extreme storm events such as heavy rain, snowstorms or windstorms the City does receive a higher volume of claims which generally extends the time it takes to process insurance claims. In these cases, the City’s investigation may take longer than 90 days. The adjuster will advise you if your claim falls in the “storm event” category.

Repairs to your property may be expedited by making a claim through your insurance company.

  1. If your claim is denied

If Toronto Water records show that reasonable maintenance, response time and installation standards were met, the City has a defense and your claim will be denied. The City’s independent insurance adjuster will outline the results of their investigation in a letter and provide you with the division’s report that justifies the City’s denial.

It’s important to know that the majority of property damage claims made against the City of Toronto are denied as City divisions regularly meet or exceed standard service levels.

If you still wish to pursue your claim after being denied compensation, your next option is to proceed with legal action.

For more information regarding the claims process, please contact the City of Toronto’s Claims Inquiry Line at 416-397-4212.

  1. When claims involve contracted companies

The City of Toronto frequently enters into contracts with independent companies (contractors) who perform work on the City’s behalf. The City’s agreements with the contractors contain a strict requirement that they respond directly to claims for any damage or injury they caused to the public.

Upon receipt of information from the City division that a contractor had control over the accident location at the time of your loss, the City’s adjuster will forward your claim to the contractor for their investigation and liability determination. You will be advised in writing when your claim has been forwarded to the contractor. The contractor should acknowledge receipt of your claim and identify a contact person who will be investigating your claim. If you do not receive the contractor’s acknowledgement letter within 10 business days, please contact the City’s adjuster to assist you with determining the contractor’s contact person.

The contractor will conduct an investigation and make a liability decision regarding your claim. If the contractor determines they were responsible for your loss, they will resolve your claim with you directly.

If the contractor determines their work met reasonable and appropriate construction standards, they may deny your claim. In this case, their communication to you will provide the results of their investigation and clearly explain their decision. Should you disagree with the contractor’s decision, please contact the City’s adjuster to advise them of the contractor’s position.

The City adjuster can assist you with the following:

  • clarify the claims process
  • clarify the facts the led the City to its position on liability
  • advise whether this position has changed given any of the contractor’s findings

If the contractor maintains that they are not liable, the City determines that it has not been negligent, and you still wish to pursue your claim, the adjuster will provide you with the basis upon which the City has denied liability.

If you still wish to pursue you claim, you have the option of pursuing the contractor and/or the City by proceeding legal action.

  1. Other Related Links
  • Sewers and drains
  • Watermain breaks
  • Complaints Process

    A complaint is an expression of dissatisfaction related to a City of Toronto program, service, staff member or the City’s insurance adjusters, ClaimsPro; where a customer believes that the City or its staff has not provided a service experience to the customer’s satisfaction at the point of service delivery, and a response or resolution is explicitly or implicitly expected.

Police Services Act must be amended to ensure police are accountable & transparent


After a January 2015 shooting involving police, officers attempted to access and copy security footage ahead of civilian investigators, according to a letter from the SIU to Toronto’s police chief. photo by

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Under the Police Services Act, Ontario police forces are under no legal obligation to respond to letters the SIU sends that include concerns about police actions.

In a dozen investigations, the SIU says police appear to have violated their legal duty to co-operate with the provincial watchdog, including allegations police failed to immediately notify the SIU of a serious civilian injury or interfered with a scene after the watchdog took over an investigation. photo by

Allegations of police behaviour that “threatened to undermine the integrity” of investigations.

A delay that denied the public “the benefit of a thorough investigation into serious allegations of police misconduct.”

Repeated complaints of officers waiting weeks, months, or in one case, nearly four years before reporting serious injuries suffered by members of the public during police interactions.

More than 150 recent letters sent from the director of Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to the Toronto police chief, obtained by the Star through a Freedom of Information request, reveal new cases of what the watchdog considers problematic officer conduct uncovered during probes of police-involved deaths, serious injuries or allegations of sexual assault.

Toronto police say they investigate every concern raised by the SIU and take remedial action wherever necessary.

In a dozen investigations, the SIU says police appear to have violated their legal duty to co-operate with the provincial watchdog, including allegations police failed to immediately notify the SIU of a serious civilian injury or interfered with a scene after the watchdog took over an investigation.

In one case, SIU director Tony Loparco said it was “extremely lucky no one was shot” when an unnamed Toronto officer attempted to arrest a mentally ill person while carrying a C8 carbine rifle, and the person “reached for the trigger on a crowded street,” Loparco wrote in a December 2015 letter to Chief Mark Saunders.

In another case, SIU acting director Joseph Martino said officers risked jeopardizing public confidence in an investigation into a January 2015 police-involved shooting when they attempted to access and copy security footage before civilian investigators — an issue identical to the one that would arise again six months later in the high-profile fatal shooting of Andrew Loku.

The SIU director writes a letter to the chief at the completion of every SIU investigation involving Toronto police. In the majority of the letters obtained by the Star, written from September 2013 to May 2016, no issues are raised about officer conduct.

But in probes where the SIU identifies police behaviour it finds concerning, or about which the watchdog wants more information, the SIU director often requests that the chief look into the matter and report back.

“I would ask that your service take a close look at the questionable conduct of these officers and to write to this office with the results of your inquiries,” Martino wrote in his Aug. 31, 2015, letter to Saunders regarding the attempt to download surveillance video.

Toronto police have “made it clear” they do not respond in writing, an SIU spokesperson said — because the SIU has no authority under the Police Services Act to ask chiefs to investigate officer conduct. photo by

But police chiefs are not legally obligated to respond to these letters — Toronto police have “made it clear” they do not respond in writing, an SIU spokesperson said — because the SIU has no authority under the Police Services Act to ask chiefs to investigate officer conduct.

Toronto police says its professional standards unit investigates “each and every comment” in SIU letters and reports back to the police board.

“Discipline and training are applied where appropriate,” said Mark Pugash, a spokesperson for the Toronto police.

Critics say the watchdog nonetheless repeatedly raises the same complaints — and regulations intended to safeguard the watchdog’s independence are “continually and regularly ignored by police services with impunity,” said André Marin, a former Ontario ombudsman and past SIU director.

“The problem here is that there is no consequence attached to police thumbing their nose at the SIU and the law,” Marin said.

Marin and other critics say the SIU itself should have more power to ensure police comply with laws intended to protect the integrity of SIU probes. And now may be the time for change, thanks to the rewriting of Ontario’s Police Services Act and the ongoing review of the SIU and other police oversight bodies, led by judge Michael Tulloch.

Marin said he wants to see Tulloch make recommendations aimed at giving the watchdog greater powers to hold police accountable when it has reason to believe officers breached their legal obligations.

Specifically, he hopes the review recommends attaching a penalty, under legislation, for failing to comply with regulations governing the SIU, such as a fine or jail term. “You would see immediate compliance,” he said.

Ian Scott, who as director of the SIU from 2008-2013 made frequent requests of police chiefs to report back on officer behaviour, said the SIU director should have the ability to complain to Ontario’s Civilian Police Commission, something the director isn’t allowed to do under existing legislation.

In an interview, Scott said the benefit of complaining to the commission is that it can launch a misconduct case outside of the usual police tribunal, a system many feel isn’t accountable because chiefs pick the adjudicator and prosecutor.

Bullets were found laying on the street (as indicated by the yellow markers placed on street). Tensions over the SIU letters arose again in 2013 when then-SIU director Ian Scott publicly criticized former Toronto police chief Bill Blair for refusing to respond to more than 100 letters containing complaints about officers. photo by

Tulloch’s much-anticipated report is due at the end of the month. In an email to the Star, a spokesperson for the review said Tulloch is looking at clarifying the SIU’s mandate and “the extent of the police duty to co-operate.”

An SIU spokesperson, Monica Hudon, told the Star Toronto police have “made it clear it will not respond in writing to concerns raised in the SIU director’s reporting letters.” But she said the service has reached out to the SIU in “other forums” to address issues raised.

“Often, this will involve telephone conversations and an exchange of views between senior officials of our respective agencies,” she said, adding that Toronto police have committed to taking remedial action in some cases.

Pugash said in some instances where the SIU has complained about a delay in notification, police needed more medical information before determining if the SIU threshold had been met; the SIU only takes over an investigation if injuries are deemed “serious.”

“In some cases, we disagree with Mr. Loparco’s contentions,” Pugash said. “The fact remains, however, that every issue is investigated, action is taken wherever appropriate, and everything is reported to the police services board.”

Toronto police board vice-chair Chin Lee said the board receives all letters from the SIU director to the chief, alongside the results of the mandatory internal police probes, which must occur within 30 days of the closure of every SIU investigation involving the service. The intention of the internal probes is to determine if policy or training changes are necessary or if disciplinary action should be taken.

“The board reviews these letters and may direct the chief, as necessary, to deal with any issues raised. The board also seeks the relevant information to fulfil its oversight responsibilities when it deems it necessary,” Lee said.

Until recently, the chief’s internal reports were not made public. But as of June 2016, the board began releasing versions of the reports, though some information, such as the names of officers involved, is not public.

Since that time, 17 internal reports have been released in the board’s monthly agendas, dating to cases closed in August 2015 and as recent as July 2016.

However, no internal reports have been released for cases closed between September and December 2015, a period during which the SIU raised concerns about officer conduct in four investigations.

That includes the cases where Martino flagged the issue of officers attempting to download surveillance footage after the January 2015 shooting, and the incident involving a C8 carbine rifle.

The board did not respond by deadline to questions about the four-month gap in internal reports released so far.

One internal report released by the board, however, does show Toronto police professional standards unit investigated an SIU director’s allegations that there was a notification delay and that police wrongly attempted to obtain a statement from an injured man during an SIU probe.

After looking into the complaints, professional standards said the notification delay was caused by a holdup in getting medical information, and that police had obtained permission from the lead SIU investigator to speak with the injured man.

The issue concerning the downloading of surveillance video following a police-involved incident appears to be a sticking point between the SIU and Toronto police.

Last spring, when Ontario’s attorney general released a censored version of the SIU director’s report into the fatal Toronto police shooting of Andrew Loku, it was revealed that Loparco had raised concerns about an officer attempting to review and download surveillance video.

Loparco said the officer’s conduct violated the Ontario regulation stating the SIU is the lead investigative agency.

A civilian watchdog (the “SIU”) can’t expect to get very far if the police won’t co-operate with the SIU. When there is lack of co-operation, the Police Services Act can’t presently impose sanctions on the police and police chiefs. photo by

Toronto police say the officer was performing their duty to secure the scene. Speaking to the Star last year, Pugash said police disagreed with Loparco.

“In this case, it was, ‘Did the video exist? Was it recording?’ In which case they would need to download it to preserve evidence.”

Pugash also said “several” SIU officials at the scene had no objections.

In his communication with Saunders about a similar incident six months earlier — where officers allegedly attempted to “access and copy” security footage from a police-involved shooting at a pharmacy — acting SIU director Martino said there was no impact on the investigation because the footage didn’t capture the incident and SIU investigators were able to intervene to “prevent the officer from copying the footage.”

Asked if Toronto police responded in writing, as Martino requested, Hudon said she could confirm that concerns raised in Martino’s letter “have been the subject of dialogue” between the SIU and police.

The Star also asked why the SIU does not issue news releases in all investigations, particularly in cases where there is a high public interest. No news release was issued, for instance, in the case involving the C8 rifle incident.

Hudon said the SIU receives notification of hundreds of incidents every year. Given the SIU’s limited resources, it is not feasible for the watchdog to issue a news releases in all of them, she said.

“We have noted this issue in our submissions as part of the review being undertaken by Justice Tulloch. Given our present resources, the SIU is committed to issuing news releases in all death cases, whenever a firearm is used and for major vehicle collisions,” Hudon said.

Wendy Gillis can be reached at [email protected] .

Letters from SIU director to Toronto police chief

“Tragic outcome” narrowly avoided

In a December 2015 letter to Chief Mark Saunders, SIU director Tony Loparco highlights what he calls the “quite troubling” conduct of an officer who helped a colleague arrest a mentally ill person while carrying a C8 rifle — a military grade weapon used for long-range shooting.

The mentally ill person quickly grabbed the gun, refused to let go and “reached for the trigger on a crowded street,” Loparco wrote. “Several” officers were required to remove gun from the person’s grip.

“The incident could have led to a much more tragic outcome in the circumstances,” Loparco wrote.

Four-year delay

In a June 23, 2015 letter, Loparco wrote to Saunders about a serious wrist injury incurred by a member of the public that did not come to the attention of the SIU until almost four years later. Loparco said the passing of time had created an “evidentiary vacuum” and therefore there were no reasonable grounds to proceed with charges against the two officers.

“The failure of the (police) to contact the SIU has effectively denied . . . the broader public the benefit of a thorough investigation into serious allegations of police misconduct,” Loparco wrote.

Investigation ‘compromised’

In an August 25, 2014, letter, Loparco wrote to then-chief Bill Blair about a two-month delay in notifying the SIU about an incident where a Toronto police officer was found to have broke someone’s nose.

Though Loparco found the use of force by the officer was legally justified, he lamented the delay in notification despite “various officers” being aware of the broken nose — a clear serious injury — within hours of the incident.

“A delay of this nature can only degrade the quality of a witness’ recollection of the events in question, and clearly compromised the integrity of the SIU’s investigation,” Loparco wrote.

‘Climate of hostility’

The question of whether police chiefs must directly respond to concerns raised by the SIU director is not a new issue in Ontario.

After former SIU director Ian Scott began requesting responses to concerns raised in his letters to chiefs when he took the reins of the agency in 2008, the Ontario Association of Chiefs of Police’s SIU Committee “strongly urged” chiefs not to respond to director’s letters, saying the SIU had no authority in matters of police conduct.

As tension increased between the SIU and police chiefs, former chief justice Patrick LeSage was tapped by the attorney general in 2011 to review the Police Services Act with an eye to resolving certain issues involving the SIU, and concluded the legislation was clear that chiefs are not obligated to respond.

“The SIU director’s authority does not extend to requiring the chief of police to investigate or report to him and should not be part of the SIU director’s communication with the chief of police,” LeSage wrote.

Instead, issues raised by the SIU are intended to be dealt with in the mandatory internal investigations a police service must conduct after every completed SIU investigation, to determine if training or policy changes need to be made or if disciplinary measures are warranted. The results of that probe must be presented to the board within 30 days of the completion of the SIU investigation.

Tensions over the SIU letters arose again in 2013 when then-SIU director Ian Scott publicly criticized former Toronto police chief Bill Blair for refusing to respond to more than 100 letters containing complaints about officers.

LeSage’s report, Scott said at the time, did not preclude police chiefs from being responsive to concerns that affect police, the SIU and the public. Marin agreed, saying LeSage’s report should not prevent the SIU from identifying issues of concern in its correspondence with chiefs of police.

“While (the SIU director) is unlikely to receive a response given the current climate of hostility, he should not be prevented from politely requesting one,” Marin, then Ontario ombudsman, wrote in Oversight Undermined, a 2011 report on the SIU.



Ottawa police to get braille badge covers — a first in Canada, CNIB says

Update: see related – Nov. 4/10 Toronto police officers are facing disciplinary action for removing the name badges from their uniforms

Toronto police meet in front of the Rogers Centre before the opening ceremony for the Pan Am Games in July. Security for the games was budgeted at $64 million.
Will Toronto Police follow this example by Ottawa Police? photo by

see source

The force says starting next week braille laminates — placed on top of the officer’s wallet badge ID — will indicate the rank of the officer and the main police phone number

Ottawa police say that officers who deal with the public will be better able to identify themselves to people who are blind or partially sighted, in what’s being called a first in Canada.

The force says starting next week braille laminates — placed on top of the officer’s wallet badge ID — will indicate the rank of the officer and the main police phone number.

Sgt. Adam Coakley led the initiative and calls it “a great opportunity to enhance service to residents.”

Image result for Photos of Braille on elevator buttons
Braille is used in elevators (on the elevator buttons) and one public telephones. Now braille will be placed on police badges, along with the name and rank of the police officer.

Coakley says more than 8,000 Ottawa residents are blind or partially sighted, and the braille sleeve will make it easier for them to confirm that they are speaking with a police officer.

The Canadian National Institute for the Blind says the initiative is unique in Canada.

Diane Bergeron of the CNIB says the blind or partially sighted will no longer be worried that they may be talking with someone posing as an officer.

“We commend the Ottawa Police Service for taking this initiative,” Bergeron said Wednesday in a release.


TTC Delivers Faulty Arguments to the Superior Court to Justify Random Drug/Alcohol Testing

Update: April 12, 2017 Court Denies Injunction and forces issue back to arbitration where the Union’s challenge to the TTC’s policy has been in arbitration since March 8, 2011 before Arbitrator Maureen K. Saltman.”

The Supr Court of Canada. On June 14, 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that random drug/alcohol testing in the workplace wasn’t justified in the workplace, even in dangerous workplaces. See: Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada, Local 30 v. Irving Pulp & Paper, Ltd., [2013] 2 SCR 458, 2013 SCC 34. photo by
see source

The TTC’s workforce has a substance abuse problem that could put passengers and the public at serious risk if it’s not immediately addressed, according to a court document filed by the transit agency.

But a representative of the union that represents TTC workers calls the allegations of substance abuse “absolutely false.”

In a factum the TTC submitted ahead of a hearing this week on its proposed random drug and alcohol testing policy, the agency said that between October 2010 and December 2016 there were 291 documented incidents in which employees’ behaviour raised safety concerns. In almost half of those the TTC either suspected or confirmed that drug or alcohol use was a factor.

A transit agency investigator concluded there was a “culture of drug and alcohol use at the TTC” and reported 45 additional incidents of employees using or trafficking alcohol or drugs while at work, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin and prescription drugs such as OxyContin.

The agency said that the results of 11,000 drug and alcohol tests of its employees since 2010 “indicate that drug and alcohol use continues to be a significant problem for the TTC, a threat to its safe operation and to the safety of the public… Each day without random testing increases the risk of irreparable harm to employees, passengers, and the public.”

TTC Head Office. The Supreme Court has already ruled that random drug/alcohol testing, even in inherently dangerous work environments, isn’t  justified. Chances are good, that the TTC’s attempt to graduate from their current policy “fit for duty program” to a random drug/alcohol testing policy, will fail and the Union will receive the injunction that they are seeking. photo by

The TTC submitted the 130-page document in response to a notice filed by the transit agency’s union, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 113. The union, which represents over 10,000 transit workers, is seeking an injunction against the random drug testing policy that is slated to go into effect on March 1. A two-day hearing on the issue begins Tuesday at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.

In an interview, Kevin Morton, the secretary-treasurer of Local 113, refuted the TTC’s depiction of endemic drug and alcohol use among its employees

“We have the same issues as any organization — be it the police, fire, newspapers — with regards to the normal distribution of people with alcohol or drug problems,” he said.

Morton said the union doesn’t oppose the TTC’s current substance abuse policies, which allow employees to be tested if there is “reasonable cause” to believe they were impaired during a significant work-related incident. Employees who are returning to work after violating the policy or undergoing addiction treatment are also subject to testing.

The new policy, which the TTC board first approved in 2011, would allow management to test employees at random, using a breathalyzer to detect alcohol or an oral swab for drug use. Workers in “safety-sensitive” positions including vehicle operators, maintenance workers and supervisors would be eligible for testing, as would some management and executives.

The union argues the policy would violate employees’ Charter right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure. “We believe in incident-based testing. I shouldn’t have to prove that I am innocent of anything,” Morton said. “I should be able to go to work on the assumption that I’m honest and dependable and clean.”

According to the TTC’s factum, between October 2010 and December 2016 there were 70 instances in which employees either tested positive for drug or alcohol use or refused to be tested following at-work incidents or when management believed there was reasonable cause to suspect impairment.

There were a further 46 incidents in which employees refused to be tested when they returned to work after violating the drug and alcohol policy or undergoing addiction treatment.

Rather than respecting the arbitration process where this issue (a new random drug/alcohol testing policy) was being arbitrated, the TTC decided to bypass it and implement this new policy on March 1/17. This left the TTC Union with no choice but to seek an injunction in the Superior Court. photo by

The factum also states that at least 15 transit operators “that the TTC is aware of” were charged by police with impaired driving while at the wheel of a private vehicle.

Although prospective employees are told that drug and alcohol testing is part of the job application process, 187 applicants to safety-sensitive positions returned positive drug tests.

Agency spokesperson Brad Ross said that despite the statistics, transit riders shouldn’t be afraid to ride the TTC.

“The TTC is safe, of course,” he said in an email. But the new drug policy would ensure it was “even safer.”

“If (the TTC) is aware of incidents of impairment in the workplace, it has a duty to act to protect its employees and the public, which it has done here.”

In messages to the public, the transit agency normally stresses how safe it is, and it’s unusual for it to claim in a public document that it has a potentially hazardous substance abuse problem among employees.

But it may have had little choice. A 2013 Supreme Court decision prohibited random testing unless employers could prove there was an existing drug or alcohol problem in the workplace.

This week’s legal showdown comes at a time when the leadership of the TTC union has been thrown into disarray by an affiliation dispute that saw the executive board pass a no-confidence vote against Local 113 president Bob Kinnear last week.

Morton, the local’s secretary-treasurer, said the schism hadn’t affected the union’s ability to fight the policy.

The random drug testing issue has been tied up in labour arbitration for years. Citing the slow movement of that process, the TTC decided last March to implement the policy without waiting for the arbitration outcome.