Yet Another Private Police Force by Shirley Dolan

Shirley Dolan
Shirley Dolan

It wasn’t long ago that the Ontario Court of Appeal stuck down a lower court decision calling into question the constitutionality of private police enforcement. The lower court’s ruling was in response to the Ontario Landowners Association’s (OLA) constitutional question concerning the police powers of the Ontario Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (OSPCA). The lower court ruled it unconstitutional but in October 2019, the Ontario Court of Appeal overturned the ruling.

The appeal ruling was in many respects irrelevant in that the OSPCA voluntarily decided to withdraw from enforcing animal cruelty laws and the Ontario government, respecting the decision of the lower court, began the development of a new act to replace the problematic OSPCA Act.

One of the interveners in the appeal was the Railway Association of Canada, which represents about 60 freight and passenger railway companies, including the Canadian National Railway (CNR) and the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). The rail companies have had their own police forces for more than 100 years under the Railway Safety Act. Of course, their submission was in support of private police forces.

Is it time to have a look at Canada’s other national police force? According to a Fifth Estate report, the CP Police Service is a fully authorized federal force, bound to uphold Canada’s laws, but employed directly by the company. The report goes on to say that “a police officer probing the death of three Canadian Pacific Railway crewmen killed in a runaway train crash in B.C. last February alleges he was denied access to key evidence and suspects a “coverup” by the railway.”

According to the Toronto Sun, calls for an independent investigation are growing, including the union representing CP running trades employees.

“It’s absurd that CP was able to criminally investigate itself with its own police force,” Christopher Monette of Teamsters Canada told the Sun.

And here’s another interesting question: according to the Toronto Sun article, railway police authority extends 500 meters (about 1/3 of a mile) from railway property. Where are the railway police when you want a blockade cleared off the tracks?