Rethinking ‘justice’ and ‘safety’.

It is not enough to ensure fairness in the criminal justice process – our ideas of ‘crime’ and ‘safety’ need to be critically examined as well. Our work on decriminalization and defunding and detasking police aims to confront the ways in which the criminal justice system causes harm to vulnerable populations and acts as a tool discrimination and oppression.

The history of Canada’s criminal justice system is rife with examples of the criminal law having been used to oppress and discriminate against marginalized communities. Examples include Canada’s long history of criminalizing Indigenous peoples’ cultural practices, including prohibitions targeting traditional dance ceremonies, powwows, and potlaches; the criminalization of homosexuality; and the Canadian legal response to sex work, which has been riddled with discrimination based on class, race, gender, and other markers of identity. The actions of vulnerable individuals are also often criminalized in a bid to ‘protect’ them – a generally counterproductive and harmful response.

CCLA believes that the criminal law should be used as sparingly as possible, and works to ensure that vulnerable, marginalized communities are not exposed in unnecessary harms through its operation.

Our over-reliance on the police is also damaging marginalized communities and deepening systemic injustice. Over ten percent of police use of force incidents occur in the course of a police response to a mental health crisis – resulting in many tragic examples of individuals who needed help being shot and killed. An enormous amount of time is spent policing individuals experiencing homelessness and youth – both populations that would be better served by civilian-led social service responses. The harms of a police response are disproportionately felt by over-policed communities, including Black persons, Indigenous persons, and members of other racialized communities, who are more likely to be stopped, questioned, arrested and killed by police. CCLA works in partnership with impacted communities to rethinking our reliance on the police and critique our collective vision of community safety.

Our Recent Cases and Reports

View our latest work and activity.

Detasking Toronto Police Report

CCLA Partners on Report, entitled Rethinking Community Safety – A Step Forward For Toronto, urging City of Toronto to shift resources and responsibilities away from the police and towards alternative crisis response and social support mechanisms.

Detasking Toronto Police

Waterfront Toronto contracted with Google’s sibling Sidewalk Labs to create a smart city project in downtown Toronto. This project would be a sensor-laden neighbourhood, collecting data on people who live, work, or visit the area. Losing the ability to be a face in the crowd, and so much of our privacy, is what’s at stake. So we launched a legal action to reset the project.

Our Work on Decriminalization, Defunding and Detasking


CCLA’s Submissions on Bill 251

May 20, 2021
On May 13, 2021, the CCLA provided written submissions on Ontario’s Bill 251, the Combating…

CCLA and PPMP Release New Report Examining Covid-19 Policing in the Second Wave

May 11, 2021
Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Policing the Pandemic Mapping Project released a new report…

CCLA Partners on Report Urging Toronto to Detask Police

January 4, 2021
A new report released this morning is urging the City of Toronto to shift resources…

Quebec Doubles Down on Its Punitive Approach to COVID

October 5, 2020
Quebec’s new COVID restrictions are simultaneously strict and bewildering. Millions of Quebeckers in the ‘red…

Stay Off the Grass: COVID-19 and Law Enforcement in Canada

June 23, 2020
The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…

Police and Pot: Let Them Smoke, Vape, and – Yes – Eat Cake (or Brownies!) Too

December 7, 2018
Police leaders are violating the civil liberties of their own ranks and perpetuating a culture…

10 things that will still be a crime after cannabis is legalized

October 16, 2018
The cannabis industry is being legalized – but there are still plenty of laws that…

We Need Better De-Escalation and Non-Escalation Responses to People in Crisis

July 19, 2018
On Wednesday, July 18, 2018, officers from the Dryden Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) tasered a…