Frequently Asked Questions
Below is a list of answers to address many frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding the SIU’s mandate, jurisdiction and investigative process.
- General Information
- Questions from Complainants and/or Witnesses
- Investigative Process
- Media Related
Prior to the establishment of the SIU in 1990, police services investigated their own officers in Ontario, or in some instances, another police service was assigned to conduct the investigation.
As a result, the SIU was formed in 1990 under a new Police Services Act, which established the SIU as an independent, arm’s length agency of the government, led by a Director and composed of civilian investigators.
The SIU’s investigative complement consists of personnel who are stationed at the Unit’s office in Mississauga and investigators who are strategically located throughout the province. This blend allows the head office to oversee and manage investigations, while retaining the flexibility to respond quickly to incident scenes across the province with investigators who reside closer to the scenes.
Incidents can be reported to the SIU days, weeks, months and even years after they have occurred.
The SIU is not authorized, however, to investigate all historical incidents. The SIU can only investigate incidents involving a firearm discharge that does not result in death or serious injury, or a special constable with the Niagara Parks Commission or peace officer with the Legislative Protective Service, if the incident occurred on or after December 1, 2020.
The Act promises to make for more effective and transparent investigations in a number of ways, such as:
- There is now a duty on police services and officials to comply with all lawful SIU requests. A breach in the duty constitutes an offence with penalties consisting of a fine or imprisonment.
- Where possible, SIU investigations must also now be completed within 120 days.
- SIU must publish reports of all SIU investigations that have not resulted in criminal charges, with the exception of reports related to sexual assault.
- The SIU also now investigates all instances where an official discharged a firearm at a person, whether or not the person died or was seriously injured.
Questions from Complainants and/or Witnesses
As a key step in the investigative process with witnesses, excluding police witnesses, the SIU issues a Confidentiality Assurance. This Assurance provides that the individual’s privacy and confidentiality rights are protected to every extent possible.
Case status is only provided to complainants or family members of a deceased complainant. Status updates are provided by the SIU lead investigator on the case. If you are a complainant and have been contacted by an SIU lead investigator, please contact the investigator directly. Alternatively you can call the SIU head office at 416-622-0748 or 1-800-787-8529 and request to speak with an Investigative Supervisor.
If you have suffered a serious injury in an interaction with a member(s) of an Ontario police service, you may contact the SIU on its website or please call the SIU head office at 416-622-0748 or 1-800-787-8529 and request to speak with an Investigative Supervisor.
The SIU is mandated to investigate any interaction involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault or if someone has been shot at. All Ontario police services are under a legal obligation to immediately notify the SIU of incidents of serious injury, allegations of sexual assault, or death involving their officials, with some exceptions. This obligation also extends to the Niagara Parks Commission and Legislative Protective Service.
The SIU is also notified of incidents by complainants themselves or their families, members of the media, lawyers, coroners and those in the medical profession.
Where possible, SIU investigations must be completed within 120 days.
The subject official is defined as an official whose conduct, in the Director’s opinion, may have caused the death, serious injury, firearm discharge or alleged sexual assault under investigation.
Subject officials are invited, but not compelled to present themselves for an interview with the SIU and they do not have to submit their notes to the SIU. Once he/she becomes the focus of an investigation and therefore under criminal jeopardy, the subject official is granted the same rights as any citizen under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to protect himself/herself from self-incrimination.
A witness official is an official who, in the opinion of the SIU Director, is involved in the incident under investigation but is not a subject official.
Witness officials have a duty under the Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019, to submit to interviews with SIU investigators at the earliest opportunity. The SIU is also entitled to a copy of their notes.
With respect to the SIU’s statutory jurisdiction, the previous legislation did not differentiate between on-duty and off-duty police officers.
The investigation consists of a number of tasks, including:
- examining the scene and securing all physical evidence
- monitoring the medical condition of anyone who has been injured
- seeking out and securing the cooperation of witnesses
- interviewing police witnesses
- seizing police equipment for forensic examination
- consulting with the coroner if there has been a death
- notifying next of kin and keeping the family of the deceased or injured parties informed
The SIU supervisor who receives the initial call from the police service obtains all available information about the event that just occurred. The supervisor then decides how many investigators and forensic investigators should respond.
Typically, the supervisor will saturate the initial response with resources to manage the incident. Once the lead investigator arrives, he/she determines the need for additional or fewer staff and the supervisor will re-assess the Unit’s deployment accordingly.
The SIU conducts independent investigations to determine whether there are grounds to charge an official in relation to the incident under review. Where such grounds exist, the SIU Director is compelled to charge the officer. Conversely, where the grounds do not exist, the SIU Director cannot lay charges, and instead issues a public report – the Director’s Report - summarizing the investigation and their reasons for the decision.
Once the SIU has laid a charge against an official, the Unit refers the matter to Justice Prosecutions of the Criminal Law Division at the Ministry of the Attorney General, which prosecutes the charge. The SIU, as an investigative agency, is not involved in the prosecution, although it does participate by preparing the Crown brief and assisting the Crown.
While the SIU publicly announces when it has laid a charge against a police officer, the Unit releases limited information regarding the basis of that charge in order to protect the fair trial interests of that police officer and the community.
Whether or not an official who has been charged by the SIU is subject to employment consequences by her or his employer is a matter entirely within the purview of their employer.
Under the Special Investigations Act, 2019, the Director has the sole authority to decide whether or not charges are warranted. The Director takes into consideration all aspects of an investigation and arrives at the decision by applying established legal tests set out in the criminal law.
In order to reopen an investigation, the Director has to be satisfied
that there is new information available that could materially affect the
outcome of an investigation. The SIU has reopened cases when this
criterion has been met.
- Sensitivity of evidentiary information
- Balancing fair trial interests
- Confidentiality Assurances to witnesses who provide information to us
- Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019
- Freedom of Information & Protection of Privacy Act
- Youth Criminal Justice Act, and
- Other laws restricting the release of information.
While the investigation is ongoing, SIU investigators are in the process of gathering and assessing all the facts surrounding the incident. Consequently, we cannot speculate or comment on information that may jeopardize the integrity of the work that we are continuing to do. In addition, we are restricted in what information can be released by the Special Investigations Unit Act, 2019.
As per our process with all SIU cases, the Unit does not release details that could jeopardize the integrity of the investigation.
As the SIU is not the charging authority, it would be the responsibility of the police service that would be laying the charge to release this information.
The release of such information is prohibited by the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act both before and after the case is closed. Of course, if a charge is laid, the name is released since an information is lodged with the court and becomes part of the public record.
Because it is an employment issue, you would have to ask the police service for whom the subject officer works.
Once a charge is laid, it is referred to Justice Prosecutions at the Ministry of the Attorney General, which conducts the prosecution. At the time of charge, the SIU is not at liberty to comment further in order to protect the officer’s and the public’s interest in a fair trial.
We have a great judicial system in Canada in which each level has its own role. After the SIU investigates and collects evidence, the Director must decide whether, based on the evidence, there are reasonable grounds to lay a charge. If the Director lays a charge, the Crown Attorney prosecutes the charge. The Crown Attorney must determine whether there is a reasonable prospect of conviction, which is a higher test than reasonable grounds. If the case meets this test, the case goes to court, where the Crown must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a criminal offence occurred.
In Ontario, the Coroners Act requires an inquest when death results while the deceased is in custody of a peace officer or when the use of force of a police officer was a cause of death. The inquest is a public hearing held for the purpose of presenting evidence to a jury of five members of the community in which a person died. It is not to determine criminality, nor is it to assign blame.
After hearing the evidence relevant to the circumstances of the death the jury must answer five questions: who was the deceased and how, where, when and by what means did the deceased die. Based on the evidence, the jury may make recommendations that, if implemented, might avoid deaths in similar circumstances. For information regarding inquests, please visit the Office of the Chief Coroner
Yes. Section 32 of O.Reg. 268/10 requires a police force to investigate SIU incidents. These investigations are administrative in nature and are conducted by the police service at the conclusion of the SIU investigation.