OPP will implement district-wide detachment board in 2024

Elisa Nguyen
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Solicitor General has approved a new OPP detachment board proposal that, once in effect, will address the unique needs of each community that receives OPP policing services.

Currently, there are two police services boards in the district—one for the Town of Fort Frances and one for the Town of Atikokan. The police services board in Fort Frances currently has 5 board members, a number that will increase to 7 board members now that the OPP detachment board proposal has been approved.

John McTaggart, police services board member for the Town of Fort Frances, says the increased number of board members is required to best serve the larger geographical area that will be represented by the new OPP detachment board.

“I think it’s important that they know that this board will continue to provide good police oversight and make sure that we have a safe and progressive community,” he said.

Once the detachment board is in place, the communities served will include the Alberton Township, Chapple Township, Dawson Township, Emo Township, Town of Fort Frances, La Vallee Township, Lake of the Woods Township, Morley Township, and the Town of Rainy River.

This board would have a total of 7 seats—4 council seats, 2 community representative seats, 1 provincial appointment seat.

The Town of Atikokan has been approved to have a board with a total of 5 seats that include 2 council seats, 2 community representative seats, and 1 provincial appointment seat.

Communities west of town from Alberton all the way to Rainy River, and up to Lake of the Woods, are all called 5.1 communities, says McTaggart.

“They basically get the policing service that they get. There is no oversight by the community by community members. And they are built according to properties on the tax roll and calls for service. Under the new Act, the contracts go away, all communities are treated the same in OPP jurisdiction. There’s a standard base rate per property charged to each municipality, and then it calls for service on top of that,” McTaggart said.

He explained that the Town of Atikokan decided they wanted to continue operating as a separate board rather than a district board back in 2021. “It made sense because they’re 150 kilometers away from Fort Frances,” said McTaggart.

McTaggart noted that issues in Emo or Alberton will also impact Fort Frances, due to the geographical proximity, therefore with a district wide detachment board, not much should change in how things are run.

“It’s the same detachment commander for the whole district,” he said. “So we work with him to be sure that we get the service that each community deserves.”

In the upcoming months, McTaggart believes that discussions surrounding the implementation of the new OPP detachment board will largely be a municipal matter.

Speaking from his perspective alone, he anticipates that communities will need to determine the membership of the board, financial matters, an allocation of meeting space and time, and appoint a secretary to the board.

“This is really just the beginning, there’s a lot of heavy lifting to do to get to the point where the board is formed. And there has to be a fair bit of training. The Ontario Association Police Service Boards continue to work on a training plan and anybody who sits on the new board has to have completed the training prior to taking a seat,” McTaggart said at the Fort Frances police services board meeting on July 28. “There’s a fair bit of work to be done yet, but this is good news that they’ve accepted our proposal.”

The police service board received a letter from the Solicitor General dated July 19, 2023, confirming that the Rainy River District OPP detachment board proposal was approved to the next step in finalizing the board compositions.

In the letter, Sarah Caldwell, assistant deputy minister for the Ministry of the Solicitor General, wrote that the ministry is planning to share more guidance on next steps, with the understanding that municipalities and First Nations require time to plan for the implementation of OPP detachment boards before the CSPA act comes into force.

“On behalf of the Ministry of the Solicitor General, I would like to express my appreciation to all the communities involved in the proposal development process,” she wrote, acknowledging the significant efforts undertaken to create the proposal for a detachment board.

The ministry is currently working on drafting the regulation, which is expected to be available on the Ontario Regulatory Registry (ORR) for public comment in the summer or fall. Posting of the regulation is one of the last steps before the regulation can be finalized in advance of bringing the Community Safety and Policing Act, 2019 (CSPA) into force in early 2024.