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Ontario police stops identifying gender of those involved in crimes

Lianne Laurence Lianne Laurence Follow Lianne

ORILLIA, Ontario, September 25, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — The Ontario Provincial Police won’t be publishing the “gender” of those accused of crimes or of their alleged victims because of privacy concerns and the “need to be progressive,” a spokesperson announced at a Monday press conference.

The policy change took effect in May after the force reviewed the Police Services Act, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, and the Ontario Human Rights Code, Sgt. Carolle Dionne told reporters.

“When we were reviewing our standard operating procedures, we realized we were including information that was not permissible for us to release,” she said, as quoted in the CBC.

“We have a lot of individuals who identify as male but actually are female, or vice versa. That’s one of the reasons. Also, we want to respect the wishes of individuals,” added Dionne. 

The OPP then decided to exclude “gender” information in media releases to be cautious about privacy and “be progressive in the change of times,” Dionne said, as quoted by Canadian Press.

While a name in a media release is often gender-specific, when the accused’s gender is not readily apparent, the OPP now won’t give out that information when asked, the CBC reported.

“We will now say ‘the individual’ or ‘the accused,’ and not use gender-specific pronouns,” Dionne explained. “In the case of a suspect where we need to be more specific, we will say ‘appears to be a female’ or ‘appears to be a male,’” she added.

Other personal information on the accused — name, age and hometown — will be released publicly, Dionne told reporters.

Moreover, it will be necessary sometimes to temporarily publish an individual’s gender, such as when police are trying to identify a suspect, or seeking a missing person, she said.

“If I’m looking for somebody, a suspect, and I have descriptors from witnesses that believe they saw a male conduct an armed robbery and he was armed and dangerous or may have had a firearm, then that person would be identified as a male,” said Dionne, as quoted in GlobalNews.

But any gender references will be deleted after charges are laid, she said.

“The focus is about an individual being charged in the courts as a result of their illegal activity. For example, an impaired driver -- it doesn't matter that it was a male or a female ... the gender didn't really play a role in there,” Dionne said, as reported by Canadian Press.

The OPP will still collect data on gender for annual crime statistics, and the information will be based on the gender listed on person’s government-issued ID, reported Global News.

“When charging somebody that identifies as a female and let’s say their driver’s licenses say male, then it’s going to be compiled as a male,” Dionne told reporters.

Gwen Landolt, a lawyer and vice president of conservative advocacy group REAL Women of Canada, blasted the OPP policy as self-serving “utter rank foolishness” and a potential risk to public safety.

The sex of an alleged perpetrator is “highly relevant, whether it’s sexual assault or drunk driving,” Landolt told LifeSiteNews.

“When an offense has occurred, the public should be aware of all the facts,” she said. The OPP policy “is a danger to the public, and that’s one of the scandals that’s going on with all this so-called progressive” agenda.

“It’s nothing to do with common sense and everything to do with protecting their backside against liability,” Landolt added. “The OPP are afraid they’ll be sued if a transgendered man decides he’s supposed to be female and he’s called the wrong thing.” 

The “whole idea just plays into this myth that one’s sex can be changed and we know it can’t,” she told LifeSiteNews.

 “And it’s just playing foolish games at our expense.”

Ottawa human rights lawyer Elie Labaky echoed Landolt, telling the CBC that the OPP is being “overly cautious” and perhaps trying to avoid legal liability.

“Are you trying to protect the person’s identity, or are you trying to protect yourself from liability? Instead of training your officers to understand the human rights code and how to deal with people, you’re being overly administrative,” Labaky said. 

By all accounts, no other Ontario police force has adopted a similar policy.

A spokesperson for Toronto Police Service confirmed with Global News that “(w)e will use all personal information available at the time, while also respecting how people identify themselves” when publishing information on those charged with crimes.

Ontario privacy commissioner Brian Beamish said the province’s freedom of information laws don’t ban gender being disclosed.

“There may be other laws and decisions, such as the Ontario Human Rights Code, that may be applicable,” he told CBC.

“There may also be a reluctance to release information that is not required to identify any individual but that an individual may feel is private and personal. We are not aware of other police services in Ontario that employ this policy,” Beamish added.

The OPP policy touches on a related issue, that is, is how police publicly identify “transgendered” individuals either accused of crimes, or victims of them.

When transgendered “woman” Aurora Wells went missing in Toronto in 2017, the TPS consistently referred to him as a “woman” and used female pronouns when discussing the case, as did media.

Wells’ decomposed body was found in August near Rosedale Valley Road and identified in November after his father reported him missing.

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