The Toronto Police Services Board has retained Justice Gloria J. Epstein to conduct the Board’s Independent Civilian Review into Missing Person Investigations.
“An Independent Review into Missing Person Investigations is a necessary and vital step to identify systemic issues and improve trust with Toronto’s vulnerable communities,” said TPSB Board Chair Andy Pringle. “Justice Epstein will bring legal rigour and reputational excellence to this important process and I look forward to the results of her work.”
Justice Epstein was appointed to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in 1993 and to the Court of Appeal for Ontario in 2007. She has been a supernumerary judge since 2015.
In 1996, Justice Epstein, then serving as a judge of the Superior Court of Justice, released the groundbreaking judgment in M. v. H., finding that the definition of a spouse in the Ontario Family Law Act was unconstitutional because it discriminated against same-sex spouses.
She has retained Mark Sandler of Cooper, Sandler, Shime & Bergman LLP to serve as Review Counsel. Mr. Sandler has served as commission or review counsel to 14 public inquiries or systemic reviews, including a soon-to-be completed systemic review conducted by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director into the Thunder Bay Police Service and its relationship to the Indigenous community. He appeared as a witness before House of Commons and Senate Committees on the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender in criminal legislation to address hate propaganda and hate motivated crime.
On June 21, the Toronto Police Services Board approved draft Terms of Reference and a $3-million budget for a Review as proposed by the Missing Persons Investigations Review Working Group and Breese Davies, of Breese Davies Law, who acted as the facilitator for the Working Group. The Board directed the Reviewer, once retained, to review the Terms of Reference and report back to the Board on proposed changes, if any, and to seek input from the stakeholders, including the Missing Persons Investigations Review Working Group, on any changes proposed, prior to the Board approving the final Terms of Reference.
“It is vitally important that we learn from the past to ensure every Toronto resident is kept safe in the future,” said TPSB Board Member, Mayor John Tory. “It is my hope that this Review, led by Justice Epstein, will identify systemic barriers and offer real enhancements to police process while improving the feeling of safety, security and respect within our vulnerable communities.”
The Board is confident that with the retention of Justice Epstein, this significant and timely Review will ensure any relevant criminal investigations and prosecutions are not prejudiced, while taking into account the important experiences of the community at all stages.
Justice Epstein will be retiring from the Court of Appeal for Ontario, effective September 1, 2018, and will be devoting herself thereafter to the Review. At its meeting of June 21, 2018, the Board approved a draft set of Terms of Reference for the Review.