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Police Powers in Canada

Police Powers in Canada: The Evolution and Practice of Authority

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 356
  • Book Info
    Police Powers in Canada
    Book Description:

    The television spectacles of Oka and the Rodney King affair served to focus public disaffection with the police, a disaffection that has been growing for several years. In Canada, confidence in the police is at an all-time low. At the same time crime rates continue to rise. Canada now has the dubious distinction of having the second highest crime rate in the Western world.

    How did this state of affairs come about? What do we want from our police? How do we achieve policing that is consistent with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms? The essays in this volume set out to explore these questions. In their introduction, the editors point out that constitutional order is tied to the exercise of power by law enforcement agencies, and that if relations between the police and civil society continue to erode, the exercise of force will rise - a dangerous prospect for democratic societies.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7858-3
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Contributions
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xx)

    The steady rise in crime rates, combined with dramatic media spectacles at home (Oka) and elsewhere (the Rodney King episode), have eroded public confidence in the police to a degree unprecedented in this century. At the same time the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms has raised new questions about police powers, casting doubts on practices of long standing. The nineteenth-century notion of police powers in the United States concerned the ability of government to place limits on peoples’ ‘liberty’ and ‘property.’ We use the term in a more modern way – to refer to the powers conferred upon the...

  6. Part One The History of Police Powers

    • 1 The Traditional Common Law Constable, 1235–1829: From Bracton to the Fieldings to Canada
      (pp. 3-23)

      Legal historians who choose to study constables usually face colleagues and readers who first want to know if you are ‘for them or against them.’ At the end of the twentieth century the subject can become so polarized that little high ground remains for overview and balance. The support side holds police unions, ministries of the attorney-general, the prosecutorial bar, and numerous law-and-order groups. The other attracts criminologists, civil libertarians, charitable groups, and the criminal-defence bar. Law schools, for their part, too often educate only the defence half of each neophyte criminal lawyer, avoiding direct study of police and prosecutorial...

    • 2 Power from the Street: The Canadian Municipal Police
      (pp. 24-43)

      The municipal police department is a relic of an earlier century. Today almost three-fifths of Canada’s 55,000 public police officers work for municipal or regional departments. Close to 10,000 belong to the Metropolitan Toronto Police Force and the Montreal Urban Community Police Service. Social, technological, and organizational changes have transformed aspects of policing in the twentieth century. The urban police have never been so well trained and equipped. Police agencies now include more women, university graduates, and members of visible and ethnic minorities. The current ratio of sworn municipal officers to civilian personnel (support and clerical staff) is three to...

    • 3 The RCMP and the Evolution of Provincial Policing
      (pp. 44-56)
      R.C. MACLEOD

      Canada has in the RCMP a highly respected national police force. Their existence has unquestionably, if informally, strengthened the powers of the police in Canada generally throughout the twentieth century. The emergence of the RCMP as the dominant police organization in the country was largely unplanned. On two occasions there was a very definite possibility that the Mounted Police might retreat into the remote frontier regions of northern Canada, leaving the field open for the development of provincial police in all provinces. I have discussed the first of these critical periods for the survival of the Mounted Police in earlier...

  7. Part Two Police Powers and Citizens’ Rights

    • 4 Citizens’ Rights and Police Powers
      (pp. 59-74)

      In this discussion of the philosophical basis for police powers and citizens’ rights, I shall not advance any remarkable or novel theses. It has been said that one important task of philosophy is to remind us of the familiar when we lose our way amid it.¹ My remarks will consist largely of reminders about the familiar.

      I note one complication first and then pass on. My title speaks of ‘citizens’ rights’; yet many people think of the rights under discussion as human rights. The notions are different in their philosophical resonances. Human rights we have in the state of nature...

    • 5 Policing under the Charter
      (pp. 75-99)

      In 1984 the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police submitted a brief¹ to the Law Reform Commission of Canada highly critical of the commission’s efforts to reform the criminal-justice system. The Chiefs asserted that the Commission did not understand the changing needs of modern Canadian society:

      The Criminal Justice System does require reform, however the LRC has failed to grasp the essential reform that is needed. Liberalization of homicide laws, decriminalization of property offences, expansion of the possible defences to criminal liability and the codification of inflexible, and indeed debilitating, controls on police investigative techniques are NOT required. What IS...

    • 6 Reforming Police Powers: Who’s in Charge?
      (pp. 100-118)

      When the Law Reform Commission of Canada was established in 1971,¹ it was thought that, within the then foreseeable future, Canada would have a new Criminal Code covering criminal law and procedure. The minister of justice, John Turner, stated in the House when the bill was under consideration that ‘the Commission should have a complete rewriting of the criminal law as one of its first projects.’² The original commission – and I should declare that I was one of the original commissioners – contemplated a new Code of Criminal Law and Procedure in its first research program, commencing with procedure:...

  8. Part Three Police Organization and Minority Representation

    • 7 Policing Aboriginal Peoples: The Challenge of Change
      (pp. 121-137)

      Recent years have witnessed an increasing focus of attention on Aboriginal peoples and the Canadian criminal-justice system. Aboriginal political and community leaders have expressed concern over the overrepresentation of Aboriginal persons at all stages of the criminal-justice system from arrest to incarceration in many jurisdictions. A growing number of research studies, task forces, and commissions of inquiry have documented the conflict that Aboriginal peoples often experience with the law. Federal, provincial, and territorial governments have been under mounting pressure to address what are perceived to be serious inequities in the administration of justice to Aboriginal people and to explore ways...

    • 8 An Assessment of Strategies of Recruiting Visible-Minority Police Officers in Canada: 1985–1990
      (pp. 138-164)

      Relations between the police and racial minorities¹ have reached crisis dimensions in major urban centres across Canada. A number of official inquiries have all served to highlight this problem. The 1989 and the 1992 Ontario Race Relations and Policing Task Force reports (Lewis 1989, 1992); the 1988 Quebec Human Rights Commission Report (Bellemare 1988), and the 1993 Task Force (Corbo) Report (Oziewicz 1993) dealt with problems in relations between police and visible minorities; the fact that the latter task forces (1992 and 1993 in Ontario and Quebec, respectively) were struck so soon after the original task-force reports points to the...

  9. Part Four Police and Politics

    • 9 The Police and Politics: The Politics of Independence
      (pp. 167-183)

      Most police officers stoutly maintain that policing and politics don’t mix. Chief Constables regularly declaim on the political neutrality of the police service and on the dangers embodied in the current campaigns for enhanced accountability to democratically-elected local authorities, denouncing this as an insidious bid for ‘political’ control. Sir Robert Mark claimed the support of a ‘long tradition of constitutional freedom from political interference in our operational role … the police are not servants of government at any level. We do not act at the behest of a minister or any political party, not even the party in government. We...

    • 10 The Police and Political Science in Canada
      (pp. 184-208)

      When I was invited to present a paper at this symposium, I welcomed the opportunity to explore a subject new to me. I did not realize that it was new to Canadian political science as well. Why I should have been surprised I am not sure, since in the quarter-century I have taught Canadian politics the subject of policing has never arisen in any substantive way. I assumed, I suppose, that political scientists elsewhere must be studying the topic. That supposition now appears invalid, as a bibliographic search quickly makes evident. In theDirectory of Political Scientists in Canada,compiled...

    • 11 Police and Politics: There and Back and There Again?
      (pp. 209-240)

      Ever since the modern public police force was first created in the early nineteenth century, questions and controversy have arisen over the relationship between police and politics. Indeed, as many writers have pointed out, opposition to the very concept of the ‘new police’ at the time it was being advocated by reformers hinged around expressed fears that this institution would become a political instrument of government or of the monarchy, as it was said to have become in France (Radzinowicz 1956: 570–4; Reiner 1985: chap. I).

      The response of reformers to these fears involved a two-pronged argument. The first...

  10. Part Five Two Case Studies:: Montreal and Edmonton

    • 12 Police Accountability in Crisis Situations
      (pp. 243-308)

      As its title indicates, this paper raises the issue of police accountability in crisis situations. The concepts of crisis and of accountability are both difficult to define. Without attempting to provide a formal definition of them, we will explain how they will be used in the context of this study.

      First of all, the type of crises that we want to discuss are triggered by criminal behaviour and not by natural events. Second, the word ‘crisis’ is used here to refer to collective events, that is, events that implicate whole communities for an extended period of time. Finally, these crises...

    • 13 Policing: From the Belly of the Whale
      (pp. 309-355)

      A few words about myself to provide a backdrop for this paper. I am fifty-three years of age. I have been in policing for thirty years. Getting in wasn’t easy. I first tried in Ireland where I grew up, but was rejected because I couldn’t speak Irish. I moved to England and tried to join the London Metropolitan Police. They rejected me because I have a finger missing. I came to Canada and applied to the Edmonton Police Department. They too rebuffed me because I’m colour-blind. (Today, I get to park in the handicapped zone!) Undaunted I applied in 1962...