OPP leadership must be free of politicial suspicion

If the drift of Canada towards a police state has not yet affected you directly, you would do well to recall the words of Pastor Martin Niemoller, writing in Germany before his arrest in the 1930s: "The Nazis came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics and I was a Protestant, so I didn't speak up....by that time there was nobody left to speak up for anyone."

Fired deputy OPP commissioner launches $15 million wrongful

Postby Thomas » Sun Sep 15, 2019 2:03 am

Fired deputy OPP commissioner launches $15 million wrongful dismissal suit against Premier Doug Ford

A former deputy Ontario Provincial Police commissioner has filed a $15 million wrongful dismissal suit against Premier Doug Ford, his departed chief of staff Dean French, and senior bureaucrats for his firing in the wake of the Taverner affair.

Brad Blair — who sounded the alarm over the hiring of Ford friend Ron Taverner as OPP boss and exposed the premier’s push for a travel van with a $50,000 customization that included a reclining sofa, minifridge and television — launched the legal action Friday in Ontario Superior Court of Justice, six months after his termination last March.

“The impact of the firing has quite frankly traumatized me,” Blair, choking back emotions at times, told a news conference at Queen’s Park with his wife, Danielle, and lawyer Julian Falconer.

“The reason this man got fired is for embarrassing the premier,” Falconer added.

Blair compared the career blow to losing his father to cancer at the age of 21, saying “the OPP was my family.”

The 33-year veteran of the country’s second-largest police force also called for a public inquiry into how Taverner, a 72-year-old Toronto police superintendent, was initially appointed OPP commissioner by the government before bowing out amid a public outcry about a potential conflict of interest.

Blair sought the commissioner’s job but was passed over in favour of Taverner after required qualifications for the post were lowered, clearing the way for someone of Taverner’s rank to apply.

Falconer charged the hiring process was “rigged” and put the OPP’s independence at risk with a pal of the premier at the helm of a police force tasked with investigating government if circumstances warrant, as was the case in a previous Liberal administration’s gas-plants scandal in which former premier Dalton McGuinty’s chief of staff was convicted and sent to jail.

Blair said he was terminated without 26 weeks’ severance to which he was entitled and without compensation for 88 banked vacation days, but is on a full pension. He has already filed a grievance with the Public Service Grievance Board to get his job back, but Falconer called it a “Byzantine” process, necessitating the wrongful dismissal suit.

The aim is to return to the OPP or to be allowed to “retire with dignity,” added Blair, who said he had no choice but to go public with concerns about the independence of the OPP because his superior, deputy community safety minister Mario Di Tommaso, was involved in the Taverner hiring.

“I had no one to go to.”

Ford would not comment directly on the lawsuit because it is before the courts but his office issued a statement saying it will continue “to support all the members of the OPP, especially on matters relating to mental health and supporting our front-line officers.”

“As the premier has said before, his concern is and always has been protecting and supporting the front-line officers who put their lives on the line every single day to protect our communities,” said spokeswoman Ivana Yelich.

The lawsuit comes during a federal election in which federal Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer’s campaign is having to distance itself from the Ford government, which has stumbled in the polls since its spring budget.

Deputy Ontario NDP Leader Sara Singh said her party supports the push for a public inquiry to delve deeper and call witnesses into the questionable hiring of Taverner.

“It didn’t appear to be independent, frankly.”

Danielle Blair said her husband’s firing has had a “life-changing” impact on their family, leaving them “feeling like somebody’s kicked a stool out from underneath of you.”

“I’ve been with Brad 37 years. We’ve moved across this province four times in the service of the OPP and the citizens of Ontario. He’s put his life on the line, he’s put his well being on the line many times, but if there’s one thing he’s always done t’s the right thing.”

The wrongful dismissal suit, which has not been proven in court, also names Di Tommaso, who personally fired Blair, deputy attorney general Paul Boniferro and former cabinet secretary Steve Orsini, who resigned in December.

It also alleges misfeasance in public office, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, and intentional infliction of mental suffering.

French, who was Ford’s controversial chief of staff, left the government in June in a cronyism scandal after a friend of his son’s and a cousin of his wife’s were appointed to six-figure jobs as Ontario’s trade representatives in New York and London, respectively. Those posts were rescinded by Ford the following day.

The wrongful dismissal suit is the latest in a series of legal moves by Blair, who has also filed a $5 million lawsuit against Ford that alleges the premier defamed him by saying Blair had breached the Police Services Act.

When he revealed the information about a travel van for the premier and a profane tirade by Ford about new faces on his OPP security detail, Community Safey Minister Sylvia Jones accused Blair of releasing “private information for personal gain.”

Blair said Friday that information came to him as interim commissioner after the departure of Vince Hawkes from the job last fall from “senior officers in the OPP…with significant concerns” that the customized van request was another sign of government interference in the operations of the force, which provides security for the premier.

Taverner asked that his appointment be delayed last Dec. 15 pending an investigation by Ontario’s integrity commissioner into any involvement in the hiring. Ford was eventually cleared, but the integrity commissioner’s report cautioned the hiring process was “troubling” and “flawed.”

Falconer called the integrity commissioner’s office and the office of the ombudsman, which refused to investigate the Taverner hiring, “Keystone cops” and said there were no consequences to the integrity commissioner’s report.

On March 6, two days after Blair was fired, Taverner withdrew his name from consideration for the OPP commissioner’s job. The government then appointed York Regional Police deputy chief Thomas Carrique as head of the force.

https://www.thestar.com/politics/provin ... -ford.html
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Ex-OPP officer files wrongful dismissal suit

Postby Thomas » Sun Sep 15, 2019 2:04 am

TORONTO - A former high-ranking provincial police officer is suing the Ontario government for wrongful dismissal, alleging he was fired for speaking out against attempts to hire a friend of Premier Doug Ford's family as the province's top cop.

Brad Blair also called for a public inquiry into what he alleged was a string of "corrupt" appointments in the Progressive Conservative government.

In his lawsuit, the former deputy commissioner of the Ontario Provincial Police also accuses Ford, his former chief of staff and other government bureaucrats of breaching his charter rights and abuse of public office — allegations that have not been proven in court.

Blair was terminated in March after speaking out publicly against attempts to hire Toronto police Supt. Ron Taverner as OPP commissioner.

"I have served the OPP faithfully and honourably since 1986 and due to my efforts in safeguarding the independence and credibility of the province's largest service from improper political interference I was fired," he said Friday in a news conference.

Blair's statement of claim further alleges the veteran officer spoke out to prevent anyone from "co-opting the country's second-largest police service for political and/or personal advantage to the premier."

Earlier this year, Blair asked the courts to force the provincial ombudsman to investigate that hiring, which was eventually abandoned by the government. He has also launched a defamation suit against Ford himself, alleging the premier damaged Blair's reputation when he accused him of breaking the Police Services Act.

A spokeswoman for Ford declined to comment on the wrongful dismissal suit.

"As this matter is before the court it would be inappropriate for us to comment further," Ivana Yelich said in a statement.

Blair said Friday he needed to challenge his "unlawful" firing because of the message it has sent to officers across Ontario. He likened the loss of his career to the death of his father.

"If you've ever lost a parent, you'll know the incredible amount of sadness and loss that you feel," he said. "That's what it feels like to me. The OPP was my family."

Blair's wife, Danielle, said her husband's termination has been traumatizing.

"We've moved across this province four times in the service of the OPP," she said. "He's put his life on the line, he's put his well-being on the line. But if there's one thing he's always done, he's always done the right thing."

Blair also called for a commission of inquiry to investigate what he called a string of "corrupt" government appointments. The Ford government has been embroiled in a scandal involving a number of appointees after close links to the premier's now former chief of staff Dean French were revealed.

That controversy prompted the dismissal of a number of appointees, French's resignation and triggered a pair of government probes.

Green party Leader Mike Schreiner said he supports Blair's call for a public inquiry into the appointments process, calling Blair's dismissal "deeply concerning."

"Even the appearance of improper interference by the premier's office in firing a whistleblower undermines public trust," he said in a statement. "A public inquiry would shed light on what happened, and enable the government to move forward with changes to improve the appointments system to ensure fairness and accountability."

http://www.pentictonherald.ca/news/nati ... 1c1ab.html

https://www.cp24.com/news/ex-opp-office ... -1.4591466
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Brad Blair appears in public for first time to call for publ

Postby Thomas » Sun Sep 15, 2019 2:05 am

Brad Blair appears in public for first time to call for public inquiry into his allegations, launch $15-million wrongful dismissal lawsuit

The fired Ontario police commander waging multiple legal battles against Progressive Conservative Premier Doug Ford appeared in public for the first time on Friday to call for a public inquiry into his allegations and to launch a $15-million wrongful dismissal lawsuit.

Former Ontario Provincial Police deputy-commissioner Brad Blair, who served as the force’s interim boss and was in the running for the permanent job last year, was dismissed in March after raising allegations of cronyism in the attempt to hire Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner, a personal friend of the Premier’s, to lead the OPP.

And it was Mr. Blair who, in legal filings containing sensitive police e-mails, unveiled an alleged attempt by the Premier’s office to spend $50,000 to retrofit a police van with a big-screen TV and other amenities for Mr. Ford’s use.

Flanked on Friday by his wife, Danielle, and his Toronto lawyer at a Queen’s Park media conference, Mr. Blair’s voice wavered, and his wife wiped away tears, as they talked about the personal toll taken by his firing after spending 33 years with the OPP.

“I lost my father at the age of 21 to cancer. And if you ever lost a parent, you’ll know the incredible amount of sadness and loss that you feel," Mr. Blair said. "That’s how I would compare it. That’s what it feels like to me. The OPP was my family.”

Mr. Ford’s office issued a statement declining to comment on the case, as it is before the courts. “As the Premier has said before, his concern is and always has been protecting and supporting the front-line officers who put their lives on the line every single day to protect our communities,” the statement reads.

The latest claim is the fourth legal action launched in Mr. Blair’s nearly year-old battle with Mr. Ford and the Ontario government. It follows a libel lawsuit over the Premier’s public comments about him, a complaint before the Ontario Public Service Grievance Board over his firing and a suit seeking to force the Ontario Legislature’s Ombudsman to investigate his case.

Friday’s lawsuit, which contains allegations that have not been proven in court, seek $13-million in damages for Mr. Blair for “wrongful termination, misfeasance in public office, negligence, negligent misrepresentation, intentional infliction of mental suffering” and breaches of his Charter rights. It also seeks $2-million in damages for his wife Danielle and their two adult children.

The Legislature’s Integrity Commissioner issued a report in March that said while Mr. Ford himself had not broken any conflict-of-interest rules in Supt. Taverner’s hiring, the process was “flawed” and “troubling.” That 102-page report outlined how Mr. Ford’s then-chief of staff, Dean French, and the province’s former top civil servant, Steve Orsini, discussed Supt. Taverner’s bid for the job behind the scenes and how the eligibility criteria were rewritten in a way that allowed for Supt. Taverner, a mid-level commander, to apply. The report also suggested that a public inquiry “may be useful.” The Opposition NDP has repeatedly called for the government to allow an inquiry, to no avail.

Mr. Blair’s lawyer, Julian Falconer, called the Ombudsman’s and the Integrity Commissioner’s investigations “utter failures.” He pointed to the other “cronyism” allegations that have dogged Mr. Ford’s government, saying an independent commission of inquiry is the only way to get answers.

The government has said Mr. Blair was let go for breaching his confidentiality oaths by airing the OPP e-mails he included in his court filings. But Mr. Blair’s latest lawsuit says he never faced a prosecution under the Police Services Act for those alleged breaches and the province’s Attorney-General has never raised their “alleged sensitive confidentiality” with the court or attempted to seal them.

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/canada ... c-inquiry/
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Firing from OPP felt like losing family member, Blair said

Postby Thomas » Sun Sep 15, 2019 2:05 am

Fired after criticizing the hiring process for Ford family friend Ron Taverner to the top OPP job, the provincial police service’s former deputy commissioner is seeking a Commission of Inquiry to look at “corrupt” provincial government appointments.

Brad Blair is also seeking $15 million in damages in a wrongful termination lawsuit that names Premier Doug Ford, his former chief of staff Dean French and senior bureaucrats, in addition to a previously announced $5 million libel lawsuit against Ford.

Blair, with wife Danielle at his side, said what he really wants is to be back in uniform doing the job he loved.

“He’s put his life on the line, he’s put his well-being on the line many times but if there’s one thing he’s always done, he’s always done the right thing,” Danielle said, wiping away tears.

“I’m just very proud of him.”

Blair was the acting commissioner of the OPP and a candidate for the permanent version of that job when Taverner, a Toronto Police superintendent, was announced as the winning candidate.

Taverner bowed out after questions were raised about the impartiality of the process.

Blair was fired March 4 by people deeply involved in Taverner’s hiring, his lawyer Julian Falconer said.

“You take a 32-year career and you flush it down the toilet,” Falconer said.

“Instead of being recognized for his service, it’s flushed down the toilet.”

When he turned to two legislative watch dogs, the Ombudsman and the Integrity Commissioner, Blair was again failed, Falconer said.

The issue was not Taverner but the ‘rigged’ process used to put him in that position, he said.

A Commission of Inquiry would offer an independent investigation of not only Taverner’s appointment, but that of several people connected to French, he said.

Blair was asked how he felt to be pulled from the service in that manner, and he compared it to losing his father at age 21.

“That’s what it felt like to me; the OPP was my family,” he said.

Ford’s office issued a statement on his behalf that thanked the uniformed and civilian men and women of the OPP.

“Our government will continue to work with OPP Commissioner, Thomas Carrique, to support all the members of the OPP, especially on matters relating to mental health and supporting our front-line officers,” the statement said.

“As the Premier has said before, his concern is and always has been protecting and supporting the front-line officers who put their lives on the line every single day to protect our communities.”

Ford’s office said it would be inappropriate to comment on a matter before the courts.

https://torontosun.com/news/provincial/ ... blair-said
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Ron Taverner organized goodbye party for colleague who later

Postby Thomas » Fri Nov 01, 2019 10:03 am

Ron Taverner organized goodbye party for colleague who later hired him to head OPP, e-mails show

Toronto Police Superintendent Ron Taverner helped organize a banquet to honour the police commander-turned-civil servant who, weeks later, would hire him as the head of the Ontario Provincial Police.

Workplace e-mails exchanged last year between Supt. Taverner and Ontario Community Safety deputy minister Mario Di Tommaso, released to the The Globe and Mail through a freedom of information request, provide new details about the relationship between the former colleagues.

Last November, the provincial government chose Supt. Taverner to head the OPP – Canada’s second-largest police force. Months later, however, he abandoned his pursuit of the job after a public outcry over his long-standing friendship with Premier Doug Ford.

But another relationship – Supt. Taverner’s ties to Mr. Di Tommaso, his former commanding officer at the Toronto Police Service, was relevant to the hiring process. The Progressive Conservative government hired Mr. Di Tommaso first, in October, 2018, and as a newly minted deputy minister he presided over the OPP commissioner selection process.

Since then, in lawsuits and the legislature, critics have asked whether the two police colleagues of almost 40 years were in a conflict of interest.

The records released to The Globe show that, prior to the hiring process playing out, the two men had praised each other’s careers in several e-mails they exchanged with fellow officers.

“Folks, as you are aware, our [colleague] and friend Mario [Di Tommaso] is moving on to a new chapter,” Supt. Taverner said in one message circulated last October, spreading the word about a $25-a-head luncheon for his departing boss. The function, he said, would “celebrate Mario and the outstanding contributions to [the] Toronto Police Service and the Community."

Four days after that Oct. 18, 2018, event, Mr. Di Tommaso started his new job. That same day, the deputy minister’s department posted a notice saying it was accepting applications for the vacant position of OPP commissioner.

Six weeks later, after Mr. Di Tommaso had helped interview and screen several high-ranking police commanders from different forces, he relayed a job offer. “Supt. Taverner … I require confirmation by email that you accept,” his Nov. 29 e-mail read. “Deputy Minister Di Tomasso … with great excitement, I accept,” was the reply.

The released e-mail records also show that earlier that fall Mr. Di Tommaso had backed Supt. Taverner’s bid for a 50-year service medal when both were still at the Toronto Police Service. “I can personally attest to his leadership and his exemplary service,” he wrote.

The same September, the then-staff superintendent copied Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders and several deputy chiefs on a separate e-mail praising Supt. Taverner for marking his 51st anniversary with the service. "Your leadership, your dedication to duty and your commitment to public service is an inspiration to us all.”

The Globe addressed questions about these e-mails to Supt. Taverner and Mr. Di Tommaso through their respective workplaces, where they continue to serve as a police unit commander and a deputy minister.

“Supt. Taverner is on an approved medical leave. We have refrained from asking him to reply to media inquiries at this time,” said Allison Sparkes of the Toronto Police Service. Supt. Taverner suffered a concussion earlier this year.

“As there are ongoing legal matters, it would be inappropriate to comment,” said Greg Flood, a spokesman for the Ministry of Community Safety.

Several lawsuits have been filed by former acting OPP commissioner Brad Blair, who alleges that he is a victim of “cronyism” because he was overlooked for the job. In one suit, he accuses the Premier and Mr. Di Tommaso of “improperly using their public authority to rig the OPP hiring process” for the benefit of a mutual “friend.”

In a report last spring, Ontario Integrity Commissioner David Wake said the men do not characterize themselves as friends.

“Mr. Taverner and Mr. Di Tommaso each indicated that their relationship is a professional one; they do not socialize (other than at community events) and are not personal friends. I accept this evidence,” he wrote.

Released in March, Mr. Wake’s 100-page report ruled that the Premier did not try to shape the outcome in Supt. Taverner’s favour. But the Integrity Commissioner also found that, unbeknownst to Mr. Ford, some of the Premier’s top aides made interventions for Supt. Taverner that rendered the process unfair.

The Globe provided Mr. Wake with a summary of some released e-mail exchanges and asked if such messages might cause him to revisit any aspects of his ruling. A spokesperson said they would not.

“Even if there was some evidence to suggest that the relationship between Mr. Taverner and Mr. Di Tommaso was closer than what they described in their testimony, given separately and under oath before the Commissioner, it would not be a relevant factor to the issues on which the opinion was sought,” wrote Michelle Renaud, an adviser for the office.

“The information you have outlined might, even if accepted and taken at their highest, detract from the validity of the recruitment process,” she added. “The Commissioner, however, has already addressed that process and ultimately found that he had a reasonable apprehension that the recruitment process was flawed.”

The Integrity Commissioner’s report was instigated by formal complaints from the NDP’s Kevin Yarde.

The MPP says he plans to press the issue in the coming legislative session. “Our concern right now obviously is the concerns about the conflicts of interest,” Mr. Yarde said in an interview last week.

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/ ... hired-him/
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Doug Ford government defends police commanders’ past relatio

Postby Thomas » Fri Nov 01, 2019 10:04 am

Doug Ford government defends police commanders’ past relationship

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/ ... ationship/
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Ontario government pledges tighter vetting for appointments

Postby Thomas » Fri Nov 01, 2019 10:05 am

Ontario government pledges tighter vetting for appointments after outrage over appointment scandals

https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/ ... nts-after/
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