Public Interest Litigation Against Investigators

Can the courts be used to effect change in the way that investigators conduct their inquiries? That issue is squarely raised in Williams v London Police Services Board, 2019 ONSC 227, <http://canlii.ca/t/hwxbr>. Representative plaintiffs and a well-known legal aid clinic that focusses on addressing violence against women sued a municipal police service for systematically declaring complaints of sexual assault as unfounded “based on sexual stereotypes and myths about sexual assault and sexual assault complainants”. The plaintiffs sought a declaration that the rights of sexual assault complaints under s. 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom were infringed, implementing a “Court appointed external review panel to review all LPS sexual assault cases that have been closed as “unfounded”” and damages. The police service moved to strike out the claim on various grounds including that claims were frivolous, that the legal aid clinic did not have standing to be a party and that the relief sought was not available in law.

The Court rejected those arguments and allowed the claim to continue. The Court held that it was not clear and certain the claim would fail and that it should be allowed to proceed. The Court did require some changes to the pleadings, but nothing that altered the ability of the action to proceed.

Regulators should be aware that claims for systemic discrimination against investigators are possible in Canada.

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