Skip to main content
Welcome to
super saver spring
offer ends april 20
save over $140
Sale ends in
per week for 24 weeks
Welcome to
super saver spring
per week for 24 weeks
save over $140
// //

TORONTO: AUGUST 8, 2013 - Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin announces that he will be launching an investigation into what direction is provided to police by Ontario's Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services with respect to de-escalating conflict situations during a press conference at Queen's Park in Toronto on Thursday, August 8, 2013. The announcement was made in wake of the recent shooting of Sammy Yatim by Toronto police.

Matthew Sherwood/The Globe and Mail

Ontario's Ombudsman is on a collision course with the province's police officers for his decision to investigate guidelines on use of force in the immediate wake of the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Sammy Yatim by Toronto police.

André Marin announced Thursday that he is reviewing the provincial government's guidelines to police on de-escalating conflicts. The shooting of Mr. Yatim on July 27 – after the streetcar passengers he had threatened with a knife had cleared the car – is already the subject of probes by the Special Investigations Unit and Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair. Police advocates are accusing the Ombudsman of undermining the fact-finding efforts already under way.

As former head of the SIU, Mr. Marin investigated several police shootings in the past, and this probe marks the latest chapter in a long, antagonistic relationship with Ontario police forces. Just before Thursday's news conference a series of vitriolic tweets allegedly from a Durham Regional Police officer aimed at the Ombudsman was a further sign of the continuing animosity.

Story continues below advertisement

Mike McCormack, the president of the Toronto Police Association which represents officers, including those subject to investigation, accused Mr. Marin of "grandstanding."

"I'm a little bit shocked that somebody such as the Ombudsman would not be respecting due process and waiting until he got all the facts and information and I think that the optics are terrible in the sense that his comments clearly do not indicate confidence in the SIU or the Toronto Police or the investigative process," he said.

However, SIU spokeswoman Monica Hudon noted the two investigations did not overlap or undermine each other. The agency's investigation is into whether there was any criminal wrongdoing, while Mr. Marin's probe will focus on the government's direction to police forces.

Asked whether the SIU would have preferred for Mr. Marin to wait, she said: "We're looking at two completely different things. It doesn't really matter."

While the Toronto police would only say that Mr. Marin is looking at the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services and not the force, Alok Mukherjee, chair of the Toronto Police Services Board, welcomed the ombudsman's investigation as an "useful exercise."

Mr. Mukherjee was quick to point out that the Toronto police receive "very good training" and that he supports the use-of-force model that officers currently use.

"I have spoken with Mr. Marin that to look at provincial standards and guidelines is not a bad idea. It is a good idea," he said.

Story continues below advertisement

While the ombudsman's office has jurisdiction over the ministry and not police services, Mr. Marin is hoping police forces across the province will share information about their procedures to aid with his investigation, which he estimates will take six to 12 months to complete.

Mr. Marin did not say specifically what guidelines and procedures his office will review. The investigation will not look specifically at when and on whom tasers should be used, for example. (Mr. Yatim was tasered by an officer after he was shot, but that officer is not being investigated by the SIU.)

Rather, Mr. Marin said he wants to look at previous recommendations that have been made and whether they are being followed.

"It's broad enough to include de-escalation of violence on the scene. It has no particular emphasis on tasering, but of course, tasering is an escalation," Mr. Marin said.

Peter Brauti, the lawyer for Constable James Forcillo who is being investigated by the SIU in the shooting of Mr. Yatim, said that the broad and seemingly general purview of the ombudsman's investigation is unhelpful.

"If the ombudsman got up and said 'It would have been nice if tasers would be more readily available. So, I'm going to do a review of the availability of tasers to officers,' that's helpful. But to stand up and say, 'Hey I've looked at some preliminary matters, I'm going to hold a review on policies and procedures,' that's not helpful," Mr. Brauti said.

Story continues below advertisement

The coroner's office has not yet called a public inquest into Mr. Yatim's death. However, the office is looking into three similar cases between 2010 and 2012. Reyal Jardine-Douglas, Sylvia Klibingaitis and Michael Eligon died after police fired at them when they were carrying knives or scissors, and they were believed to be mentally ill at the time of the shootings. The inquest into their deaths is set to begin on Oct. 15.

Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, said the government "will co-operate fully" with Mr. Marin. She noted that her officials are conducting a continuing use-of-force review.

Mr. Yatim's parents welcomed Mr. Marin's review, saying they hope that "further conflicts between interested parties" are avoided as the SIU probe continues.

"We are grateful that this investigation will further public dialogue on police procedures and acceptable de-escalation tactics, and that this inquiry will hopefully, finally, lead to the implementation, not just recommendation, of safe conflict resolution procedures," they said in a statement.

Clayton Ruby, a prominent Toronto lawyer and civil-liberties advocate, lauded Mr. Marin for tackling the issue, saying the SIU and other police oversight bodies have a poor record.

"He's saying this is a problem that no one is dealing with and I better do it," he said. "I think if somebody else was dealing with this, he wouldn't feel the need to do it."

Story continues below advertisement

In a news conference Thursday, Mr. Marin lamented that there have been similar deaths in the past. "It seems to be like Groundhog Day – inquest after inquest, police shooting after police shooting," Mr. Marin said.

Shortly before he announced the probe, Mr. Marin was attacked on Twitter as a "carded member of Al Qaida." Mr. Marin then alleged the person behind the anonymous account, which was later deleted, to be Durham Regional Detective Constable Scott Dennis. Deputy Chief Paul Martin, who said the account appears to have been created with the officer's work e-mail address, said the force is investigating.

With a report from Ajit Jain, Special to The Globe and Mail

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the authors of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies