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Ontario police-review agency to study strip searches in province

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The Office of the Independent Police Review Director or OIPRD is launching a thorough review of the use of strip searches by police in Ontario. The OIPRD is an “independent civilian oversight agency” that investigates public complaints against police in the province. The agency is affiliated with the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.

CBC news spoke with Director Gerry McNeilly of OIPRD about the new strip-search review effort, which he decided was appropriate because he receives hundreds of reports from members of the public alleging that they were “improperly and illegally searched.”

McNeilly told CBC that he has discussed the issue of strip searches with provincial police chiefs, but that due to lack of change he is launching this “systemic review” to inform people of their rights after arrest and to educate law enforcement about the “rules and regulations.”

The director said that he will “emphasize what the Supreme Court of Canada said, that it’s humiliating, it’s degrading, it’s the worst search anyone can be subjected to.”

The leading Supreme Court case on strip searches is R. v. Golden from 2001, a case appealed out of Ontario that performed an exhaustive review of the history of the law in this regard in Canada and other countries.

The court held that for a strip search after arrest and without a warrant to be constitutional and not in violation of a defendant’s Charter rights to be free of unreasonable search and seizure and to privacy, the arrest must have been lawful; the strip search must be incident to or related to the reason for the arrest; and the search must relate to either the need to preserve evidence related to the reason for the arrest or for weapons.

In addition, strip searches in these circumstances must be carried out in a reasonable manner that complies with the Charter. The court spent pages discussing what factors are important in determining whether the manner of the search was constitutional.

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