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Fighting for reasonable limits to police powers, and accountability for abuse.

Police officers are vested with an enormous amount of responsibility, and an enormous amount of power to carry out those responsibilities. Police are given powers to stop, detain, question, search and arrest individuals. They are issued firearms and can use force, including lethal force, in carrying out their duties.

CCLA fights to ensure there are clear and strong limits on police powers to detain, search, arrest, use physical force, and otherwise curtail individual rights.  We also fight for effective oversight and accountability mechanisms for police, to ensure that those who wield power and enforce the law must also be subject to the law.

A Reflection of The Health of Our Democracy: Police Accountability

Canadians come into contact with the police every day—whether as victims, witnesses, suspects, or simply as members of the public. How we are treated by the police, the rights we are afforded in these interactions, and the remedies we can expect when our rights are violated by those with power is a reflection of the health of our democracy.
Police have unique powers in our society, including the ability to use force.

These policing powers demand great scrutiny and oversight from the public in order to ensure that individuals and communities are treated with respect and dignity.

To effectively ensure police and other government actors do not abuse the powers they have been given over citizens, it is essential to have reliable, transparent systems of accountability in place.

Anti-Black Racism in Canada’s Criminal Justice System

Everyone has unconscious biases, often based on stereotypes, that they use to inform their thought processes and decision-making. Racial profiling also occurs on a systemic level – when an unjustifiable level of scrutiny and differential treatment becomes ingrained into an organization’s culture and operations. All these forms of racism exist within Canada’s criminal justice system.


Our 2019 Supreme Court Win

In May 2009, Bela Kosoian entered a subway station to travel to university. She took the descending escalator, and like many subway users, did not hold onto the handrail. A police officer saw her and ordered her several times to hold onto the handrail, and pointed to a nearby sign. She refused and would not identify herself when she reached the bottom of the escalator.  When she tried to leave, the police officer and a colleague took her by the elbow into a holding room. She was handcuffed with her arms behind her back. Her bag was searched without her consent and she was charged with failing to hold the handrail and for hindering the police officers in their duties.

The restraint, the excessive restraint, the detention — all of it was unlawful and liable for damages.

Ms. Kosoian was acquitted of the offence and brought an action against the police officer, his employer and the subway system, arguing that her arrest was unlawful and unreasonable. 

Police have no blanket powers of arrest. At the Supreme Court hearing, our lawyers argued that police cannot make up rules and then arrest you for not following them.

The Court agreed. The Supreme Court of Canada held that a reasonable police officer would not have considered failing to hold the handrail to be an offence.

In carrying out their duties, police officers may be required to limit the rights and freedoms of people. There is an undeniable risk of abuse of power. This is why there must always be a legal basis for police officers actions.


In a free and democratic society, police officers may interfere with the exercise of individual freedoms only to the extent permitted by law..
Our Recent Cases and Reports

View our latest work and activity.

Strip Searches in Ontario Prisons

Ontario's law gives provincial prisons carte blanche to strip search any prisoner, at any time, for no reason. We believe the law is unconstitutional.

Racial Profiling

Canadian police detain thousands of racialized persons in suspicionless roadside stops each year. These police powers enable racial profiling and we believe they are unconstitutional.

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.

Strip Searches in Ontario Prisons

June 21, 2022

Racial Profiling

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.

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 in Police Accountability


CCLA Intervening Before Ontario Superior Court to Oppose Keeping Officer Names Secret in Police Accountability Cases

TORONTO — The CCLA will appear today before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice as an…
April 9, 2024

CCLA intervening before Superior Court of Justice to ensure fair adjudication of police complaints

The CCLA will appear before the Ontario Superior Court of Justice as an intervenor in…
April 2, 2024

CCLA Argues Before the Quebec Court of Appeal in Landmark Racial Profiling Case

MONTREAL — The Canadian Civil Liberties Association will appear before the Court of Appeal of Quebec…
March 5, 2024

CCLA intervening in major case on police background checks at Court of Appeal for Ontario

The Court of Appeal for Ontario has granted leave to intervene to the CCLA in…
February 15, 2024

Supreme Court endorses high threshold to dismiss abuse of process applications

On April 28, 2023, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in R. v.…
June 15, 2023

CCLA and civil society concerned about flawed RCMP and CBSA oversight legislation

While Bill C-20 is a crucial measure to ensure greater accountability of the Canada Border…
June 13, 2023

CCLA Reacts to R v McColman Decision

OTTAWA — Shakir Rahim, Director of Criminal Justice for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA),…
March 27, 2023

Court agrees with CCLA that police background checks require oversight

On February 27, 2023, the Divisional Court in Ontario released its decision in Khorsand v.…
March 9, 2023

The Agenda: Is Ontario’s Police Watchdog Effective?

It's never good news when we learn that the Special Investigations Unit – the SIU…
March 3, 2023

Police-involved deaths on the rise across Canada

CCLA welcomes the launch of a publicly accessible online database tracking police-involved deaths across Canada.…
February 23, 2023

Supreme Court Dodges Key Issue in R. v. McGregor

A majority of the Supreme Court of Canada in R. v. McGregor opted not to…
February 21, 2023

The Guardian: Canada court rules random traffic stops are racist and unconstitutional

A Canadian court has ruled that random traffic stops violate the country’s charter, striking down…
October 26, 2022

Huge Victory Against Racial Profiling in Quebec Superior Court

MONTREAL — The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (“CCLA”), as a party intervening in the case…
October 26, 2022

Landmark Racial Profiling Decision – Unofficial English Translation – Quebec Superior Court (select passages)

UNOFFICIAL TRANSLATION of Joseph-Christopher Luamba (Plaintiff) v Attorney General of Québec and Attorney General of…
October 25, 2022

Huge Victory Against Racial Profiling: Decision from Quebec Superior Court

Huge victory against racial profiling in Quebec! We were very happy to work in support…
October 25, 2022

Disappointing Supreme Court decision on ‘voluntary’ statements to the police

On October 14, 2022, the Supreme Court of Canada released its decision in R v…
October 14, 2022

CCLA at the Supreme Court to ensure meaningful adjudication of Charter claims

The CCLA is at the Supreme Court of Canada today arguing that courts should not…
October 4, 2022

Death in Vancouver highlights lethality of “less lethal” weapons

On Monday morning Chris Amyotte, a 42-year-old father of seven from Winnipeg and member of…
August 25, 2022

Human Rights Tribunal Finds Police DNA Sweep was Discriminatory

Earlier this week the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruled that the Ontario Provincial Police (“OPP”)…
August 23, 2022

CCLA Intervening in Challenge to Sex Work Laws

The CCLA recently filed its written argument in Canadian Alliance for Sex Work Law Reform…
August 16, 2022

CCLA argues against expanded police detention powers at Supreme Court

CCLA is intervening in a case before the Supreme Court to argue that the police…
August 10, 2022

La lutte contre le profilage racial se poursuit devant les tribunaux et dans les communautés

July 7, 2022

Racial Profiling on Trial: an Update from the Frontlines

Last year the CCLA became involved in a constitutional challenge to the laws that grant…
June 28, 2022

Canadian Civil Liberties Association launches constitutional challenge to Ontario’s strip search law

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association and a woman with personal experience have launched a major…
June 20, 2022

Trial Begins in Major Constitutional Challenge Targeting Racial Profiling

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is joining with a diverse group of civil society…
May 30, 2022

Applying the Charter Outside of Canada

Does the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms apply to the actions of law enforcement…
May 16, 2022

SCC Rules on Constitutionality of Post-Arrest Searches of Houses

On Friday April 8 the Supreme Court released its ruling in R v Stairs, a…
April 12, 2022

Protecting the Right to Silence and Ensuring Meaningful Remedies When Police Violate the Charter

CCLA is appearing before the Supreme Court of Canada to reinforce the limits of state…
February 14, 2022

CCLA Launches Latest Tool to Combat Carding & Racial Profiling

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) today released their next salvo in the fight against…
December 13, 2021

CCLA Intervenes in Court Challenge Against Racial Profiling

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) is intervening in a constitutional challenge before the Superior Court…
July 20, 2021

CCLA to Appear Before Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario in Police Background Checks Case

Thairu Taban and Josslyn Mounsey were hired by Metrolinx as Transit Safety Communications Operators. They…
June 29, 2021

CCLA to Appear Before the Supreme Court in Police Search and Seizure Case

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) has been granted leave to intervene in the upcoming…
June 11, 2021

CCLA’s Submissions on Bill 251

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

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

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

Update on CCLA’s Challenge to Ontario’s New Regulation

"We will take yes for an answer and put this legal challenge on pause, with…
April 17, 2021

CCLA to Challenge Ontario’s “Black Friday” Regulation

“We have today retained counsel and are preparing to go to court in the coming…
April 17, 2021

Premier Legault—It’s Time To Drop The Curfew

The CCLA is speaking out against Premier Legault’s unjust Quebec curfew.
March 23, 2021
Commuter reading the paper while waiting for a train

Race and Criminal Injustice Report: Q and A by CCLA Special Advisor, Anti-Black Racism, Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah

CCLA Special Advisor on Anti-Black Racism, Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, recently sat down for a Q+A…
March 10, 2021

Open Letter to Federal Leaders: Do not Expand Anti-Terrorism Laws in Name of Anti-Racism

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
February 22, 2021

Better Safe Than Sorry is the Motto of a Police State

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
February 19, 2021

CCLA on Ontario’s Stay-at-Home Order

“As the Ontario Government announced a 28-day stay-at-home order, what concerns us the most is…
January 14, 2021

Rethinking Community Safety

A Step Forward for Toronto
January 12, 2021

CBSA Oversight and Ebrahim Toure

We renew our calls for the establishment of an independent, civilian-led oversight commission with a…
November 26, 2020

COVID-19 Fines Will Likely Make Pandemic Worse

On November 7, Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia’s provincial health officer, held an unusual press…
November 20, 2020

A Civil Liberties Take on Canada’s Second Wave of COVID-19 Emergency Orders

During the first wave of COVID, we were quite critical of a number of the…
November 19, 2020

Guess Who’s Coming to Thanksgiving Dinner, Quebec?

The Quebec government has put the police on the frontlines of the pandemic and placed…
October 12, 2020

Quebec Doubles Down on Its Punitive Approach to COVID

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

Inaccurate, Unreliable, Dysfunctional: A Glimpse Into Ontario’s Now-Defunct COVID Database for Police

In the spring the Ontario government launched a database of COVID test results, with the…
September 30, 2020

Montreal makes history to promote transparency and protect privacy.

You probably missed the landmark decision by a major Canadian law-maker this week, striking a…
September 24, 2020

Montreal Surveillance Tech Moratorium Presser

CCLA urges Montréal City council to protect their constituents from identity and personal data theft.
September 18, 2020

Montreal Councillor Rotrand’s Initiative to Mandate Accountability & Transparency

We support Councillor Rotrand's initiative to mandate public accountability and transparency for surveillance technologies purchased,…
September 17, 2020

Ontario Government Revokes Emergency Order

The Ontario government has ended police access to a COVID-19 database after CCLA and partners…
August 17, 2020

CCLA & Partners Launch Action to Stop Ontario Government’s Disclosure of COVID Status to Police

The CCLA has joined with Aboriginal Legal Services (ALS), the Black Legal Action Centre, and…
July 16, 2020

Letter to Bill Blair

Subject: Ban on use of facial recognition surveillance by federal law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
July 8, 2020

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

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

CCLA to Winnipeg Police: Police, and Target Practice in Our Neighbourhoods

We have been contacted by Gabriela Aguero, a local resident who was understandably panicked by…
June 3, 2020

CCLA Writes to NL: Reconsider Travel Ban and Bill 38

Pursuant to a Special Measure issued by the Chief Medical Officer of Health (Special Measures…
May 12, 2020

CCLA Questions Ottawa Policing

Ignorance of the law is ordinarily an invalid defence. But nothing is ordinary about a…
April 24, 2020

CCLA and Partners Question Government on Decision to Share COVID-19 Test Results with Police

Last week police services across Ontario quietly got access to a new database – a…
April 23, 2020

Too Many COVID Charges, Too Many Tickets, Too Many Fines.

Too many COVID charges, too many tickets, too many fines. It’s a public health crisis,…
April 21, 2020

Pandemic Policing Has Taken a Punitive Turn in Ottawa

Being a mature democratic country with a constitutional bill of rights means that instant, mass…
April 7, 2020

CCLA to Ottawa: Stop Overpolicing During a Pandemic

Firstly, we are receiving a large number of reports from the public that your police…
April 6, 2020

CCLA to Attorney General: Concerns About Carding Under Emergency Order

As you know concerns about carding, racial and social profiling led to a serious crisis…
April 3, 2020

Carding in a Pandemic

While we certainly understand the enormity of the pandemic, and of the province’s task in…
April 2, 2020

CCLA to CACP: Transparency in Emergency Police Powers is Needed

I am writing to urge that the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police take an…
April 2, 2020

Victory at The Supreme Court: A Fight for Everyone’s Right to Privacy and Equality (R v. Le)

Victory! Today, the Supreme Court rendered a monumental decision recognizing that police carding in a…
May 31, 2019

CCLA at the Supreme Court: The Worst Carding Case in Canadian History?

On Friday May 31st, the Supreme Court of Canada is going to release its decision…
May 30, 2019

Manitoba Homicide Stats Generating More Heat Than Light

Now what?  It’s darkest before the dawn, to be sure, but what does Winnipeg or…
May 8, 2019

CCLA at the Supreme Court: What Happens When the Police Arrest You for a Non-Existent Offence?

Sometimes truth really is stranger than fiction. It may be hard to believe, but earlier…
April 18, 2019

CCLA at The Supreme Court: When Can The Police Arrest You to ‘Protect’ You?

How far can police officers go when initiating a “protective” arrest? Can innocent protestors be…
March 21, 2019

CCLA Urges Toronto to Delay Purchase of Gunshot-Location Technology ShotSpotter

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association has serious concerns regarding the impact of new police surveillance…
July 23, 2018

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

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

INCLO Report Release: Defending Dissent: State Practices that Protect and Promote the Right to Protest

INCLO and the IHRC launched a report today that provides practical guidance on how law enforcement…
June 27, 2018

Ontario’s Policing Reform Legislation Can Still be Improved

The Canadian Civilian Liberties Association has long advocated for policing reform in Ontario. For decades,…
March 2, 2018

CCLA Addresses Committee on Impaired Driving Laws (Bill C-46)

On September 18, 2017, CCLA Director of Public Safety, Rob De Luca, made submissions on…
March 1, 2018

G20 Civil Case Against Toronto Police Board Begins Today

This week, trial begins in a long-awaited civil case against Toronto Polices Services for its…
February 5, 2018

CCLA Announcement: Coalition Calls for Implementation of Loku Inquest Recommendations

The tragic shooting death of Andrew Loku should never have occurred. It took place within…
October 3, 2017

Senior Police Officer Gets Light Sentence For G20 Misconduct

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) will challenge the Government of Nova Scotia’s exceptionally broad injunction limiting…
June 15, 2016
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