The Optics of Justice Dennis O’Connor Connection to Law Firm Borden Ladner Gervais
The Toronto Police Services Chief William Blair has released a statement on Wednesday, August 14th, 2013 at 5:58 pm regarding the Honourable Justice Dennis O’Connor, Q.C, internal review of the Toronto Police Service use of force and his work with the law firm Borden Ladner Gervais. Chief Blair’s statement can be read in full at http://www.torontopolice.on.ca/newsreleases/pdfs/27315.pdf
The Urban Alliance on Race Relations is concerned about the optics of Justice Dennis O’Connor connection to law firm Borden Ladner Gervais and this law firm’s connection to the Toronto Police Service.
We believe that any investigation into police use of force, training, accountability and oversight mechanisms must be conducted by someone with impeccable impartiality.
It is incredibly problematic that Justice Dennis O’Connor’s Law firm Borden Ladner Gervais relationship with the Toronto Police Service may put the credibility of his review mandated by the chief pursuant to Ontario Regulation 268, S. 11 into question with the public, through a perception of bias, reasonable apprehension of bias or perception of perceived conflict of interest.
We are surprised that the connection with the law firm Borden Ladner Gervais were not looked at by both the Toronto Police Services Board before the announcement was made by Chief Blair on Monday, August, 12th, 2013.
Quite frankly, we are not sure if the public will be confident knowing of Justice O’Connor’s relationship with Borden Ladner Gervais.
Its all well and good that Chief Blair and Justice O’Connor has satisfied themselves on Justice O’Connor’s ability advise the police chief in the internal review.
However, it is the public outrage and public image of the police that must be repaired and I am not sure that the confidence of the public will be satisfied with the knowledge that Borden Ladner Gervais has such an association with the Toronto Police.
Justice O’Connor has a good track record including Maher Arar hearing and the Walkerton inquiry. However, this review is not simply about Justice O’Connor’s track record. It is about the influences that he is surrounded by at his law firm, the perceptions and the firm’s role at the material time that may create uncertainty in the minds of the public.
The review requires tough questions to be asked and clear answers to be provided.
That is why questions of police oversight and who are the police accountable comes up from the public.