Remarks By Dalton McGuinty, Premier Of Ontario To The Ontario Association Of Chiefs Of Police
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Thank you for that kind introduction.
I'm very impressed by the conference you and your colleagues have put together.
Let me begin by expressing my profound respect for the service you and your officers provide to the people of Ontario.
As Premier, I've had the chance to truly understand and appreciate the commitment police officers make.
It's my privilege, and my duty, to attend services, on behalf of all Ontarians, when we lose an officer in the line of duty.
On those days, I understand what the word "service" really means and what "sacrifice" looks like.
On those days, I feel more than gratitude.
I feel awe.
I want you to know that I will never allow anyone to denigrate or disrespect the work you do on our behalf.
And that, as chiefs, you have my support and admiration.
You're the leaders of our police forces -- and leaders in our communities.
That's what makes this conference so important -- and why I wanted to be part of it.
The discussions you'll have over the next couple of days will help make all Ontarians safer.
I've had a look at the agenda and what impresses me most is the fact you're taking the long view.
That's what our government is doing.
This week, we marked the anniversary of our swearing-in by releasing a progress report on our plan for Ontario.
It's a plan to strengthen our greatest competitive advantage -- our people.
It's a plan to strengthen the education and skills of our people.
It's a plan to strengthen the health of our people.
It's a plan to ensure we have prosperity for people.
Integral to this plan is the work you do.
Our children learn best when they are safe from harm.
Safe communities are healthier communities.
And in a competitive world, the places with the highest quality of life -- where people can live and work without worrying about their safety -- attract the best workers and the best jobs.
We have a strong, secure foundation on which to build.
Overall crime rates across Canada are declining.
The national homicide rate fell by 7 per cent last year -- to the lowest level in three decades.
But there's no reason to become complacent
And every reason to remain vigilant.
Because some of our greatest challenges -- domestic violence, dangerous offenders, youth crime -- remain problems.
And new or growing threats -- grow ops, gangs and guns, and the use of the Internet to lure children into harm's way -- cannot and must not be ignored.
So today I'm pleased to announce that we are proceeding with our plan to put an additional 1,000 police officers on the street.
We face a severe fiscal challenge -- money is tight.
But this is important to the people you and I serve. And we will move forward.
Half of these officers will be used for community policing.
Patrolling the streets, having a presence in our neighborhoods, visiting our classrooms -- this is critically important police work.
The rest of the additional officers will support our plan to target six specific challenges -- six concerns that the people of Ontario have and that our police have brought forward.
The first is youth crime.
While overall homicide rates are down across Canada, youth homicides are up a stunning 77 per cent in Ontario.
And last year, one in five homicides in our province was gang-related.
We're committed to a justice system that treats young offenders that commit dangerous crimes firmly and fairly -- that holds them accountable for their actions.
But we also want to emphasize the importance of keeping young people out of the justice system in the first place.
Too often, once young offenders enter the system, they stay there.
That's why, over the next three years, we'll be increasing funding to expand the Youth Justice Committee program provincewide, including some of the highest-risk neighbourhoods in Toronto.
We're investing in prevention.
We're creating summer jobs for youth at risk.
And we're providing funding to schools so they're open for sports and other activities after hours -- so kids have something to do, and a safe place to do it in.
Our second target area is dangerous offenders.
We believe serious offenders belong behind bars, and we'll work with Ottawa to strengthen dangerous offender laws.
That's why we've invested $700,000 to help Toronto police keep close track of sex offenders.
But we need to do much more.
We will be piloting a specialized dangerous offenders policing unit.
Its job will be to work to keep communities safe from the high-risk offenders after they're released from prison.
The third area our plan targets is guns and gangs.
Crimes involving guns are on the rise.
We've already established a guns and gangs task force to bring experienced Crown attorneys and police officers together to combat gun and gang crime.
We're also the first province to introduce legislation that would make it mandatory for hospitals to report gunshot wounds.
I'm looking forward to other ideas you and this conference may bring forward.
Fourth, our plan targets organized crime -- particularly marijuana grow-ops.
We learned from the Green Tide Summit that we need increased, targeted enforcement to tackle grow-ops.
They present a fire hazard. They siphon $85 million worth of electricity each year. And they prey on our children.
A recent study showed almost one in five grow-ops was located within 500 metres of a secondary school.
And it's heartbreaking to learn that families with children are often hired to crop-sit the house to reduce suspicion.
This week, we announced an important step in our fight against residential grow operations -- a step police have urged us to take.
We introduced legislation that will, if passed, give local officials the tools they need to work with and support police in their efforts.
The bill would allow building inspectors access to premises that have been identified by police as suspected grow operations.
It would give local utilities the authority to cut power to properties whose abuse of hydro threaten our communities, such as grow ops.
We will also be introducing increased fines under the Building Code, the Fire Protection and Prevention Act and the Electricity Act.
There is more to do, with you, but this is a significant step forward.
Fifth, our plan targets domestic violence.
One of the first things we did as a government was introduce a long-term plan of action against domestic violence.
It includes $3.5 million in additional funding for housing supports for abused women and their children, $4.9 million for a four-year public education campaign and improved training for police officers, Crown attorneys and others working in the criminal justice system to assess risk.
We're determined to protect the women and children in our communities from harm.
It's why we're bringing together police and experienced Crowns attorneys to conduct full investigations and hold abusers accountable for their actions.
Finally, we're targeting on-line crime against our children -- child pornogropahy and the use of the Internet to lure children.
Recent studies show that:
40 per cent of Canadian youth report that someone they met on the Internet has asked for personal information. And nearly half of them have provided that information.
27 per cent of our kids aged 13 to 14, and 37 per cent of teens age 15 to 16, have received pornography from someone they met online.
28 per cent of our kids aged 13 and 14 have been asked by someone they've meet on the net to meet in person.
16 per cent of those asked did so -- and 15 per cent of those did so alone.
It's easy to be scared by these numbers.
It's more important to be mobilized to action by them.
And we are.
We have invested an invested an additional $1 million in the OPP's Child Pornography unit -- a 70 per cent increase.
We have joined forces with the Ontario Provincial Police -- and all of you, Ontario's police chiefs -- to fight the lowlifes who would exploit and hurt our kids.
Together, we're working on new province-wide strategy -- a strategy that will be supported by $5 million in funding from the province.
In the meantime, we're going to beef up prosecution of Internet-based crimes.
And we're going to do more to cyber-proof our children, in the classroom.
We need to protect our kids -- not shelter them from reality.
They need to know what they're dealing with.
Whether we're dealing with threats that are new or growing, like Internet predators, grow-ops and gangs and guns, or problems you have faced for years, like dangerous offenders, youth crime and the cycle of domestic violence -- we are working to make Ontarians safer by working together.
You understand and we understand that none of us is a strong or as smart as all of us. None of us can be as vigilant as all of us working together.
We have different roles, but we have much in common.
We've chosen public service.
We've chosen to lead.
We have a shared responsibility to keep this province strong and safe and a shared responsibility to work together.
I believe we're off to a strong start.
Let's continue working together to ensure our police forces are strong and well equipped, to put another 1,000 officers on the street, to make our communities safer and stronger.
My friends, the Ontario we want for our communities, the safe, strong, secure Ontario we want for our families, the one we want to leave to our children and grandchildren.
That Ontario is yours and mine to deliver together.