Progress in getting police to offer more de-escalation training for officers in the wake of the 2013 Sammy Yatim streetcar shooting has been “painfully slow,” Ontario’s Ombudsman says in his annual report.
Paul Dubé faults the Ministry of the Solicitor General for not proceeding with a specific regulation on de-escalation while other initiatives like a new use-of-force model, revised training and guidance to police forces on body-worn cameras for officers have “stalled,” he said in the report released Wednesday.
“Experts and coroners’ juries have called for more de-escalation training and a new use-of-force model for decades,” the ombudsman said.
“I made these same recommendations in 2016, and they were accepted — but progress has been painfully slow,” he added. “Still, we continue to work on this issue, and I look forward to discussing it soon with the new solicitor general, along with the need to improve oversight of vulnerable inmates in segregation.”
The Liberals were in power in 2016 when the last recommendations were made in Dubé’s damning report, called “A Matter of Life and Death.” Premier Doug Ford’s Progressive Conservatives were then elected in 2018, with Sylvia Jones, now the health minister, serving as solicitor general.
Jones became health minister and deputy premier after this year’s June 2 election and new MPP Michael Kerzner (York Centre) was appointed the solicitor general.
It’s not the first time Dubé has called out authorities on de-escalation training — in 2020, he blasted the “glacial” pace of police reform, including use-of-force guidelines blamed by critics for increasing the likelihood of deaths involving police.
Yatim was 18 when he was killed by then-Toronto police officer James Forcillo on an empty streetcar. Yatim had been holding a small knife. He was shot nine times in an incident that was caught on video and sparked outrage over use-of-force tactics, especially when officers are responding to someone experiencing a mental health crisis.
The ombudsman said his special investigations into oversight of nursing homes during COVID-19 and delays at the Landlord and Tenant Board are coming later this year.