Bonnie Mayor Crombie comments on death of Ejaz Choudry, calls for SIU reform

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Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie is calling for reform of the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) following the police watchdog's controversial decision to not lay charges against any of the Peel Regional Police officers involved in the shooting death of Ejaz Choudry. 

In a statement, Crombie said that she is not in a position to comment on the SIU's decision because she does not have all the details of the investigation—something she says signals a problem with the organization. 

"The loss of Mr. Ejaz Choudry is a tragedy and my thoughts are with his family and the community as they have faced this difficult experience," Crombie wrote in a statement posted to her website. 

"I am not in a position to comment on the SIU investigation, as I do not have the full details. And that is precisely the problem with the current system," she said, adding that she, along with Mississauga and Peel Region councils, has been calling for more accountability and transparency from the watchdog.

Calls for SIU and overall police reform in Peel reached a fever pitch after Choudry, a 62-year-old schizophrenic man who was repeatedly described in the SIU report as "frail," was fatally shot by officers in his Malton apartment during a mental health call last June. 

Last week, the SIU said it would not be laying charges against any of the officers involved in the incident. Joseph Martino, the director of the SIU, said that while the situation ended with “devastating consequences,” he is not convinced that the officers involved in the shooting committed a criminal offence or used unreasonable force against Choudry. 

According to the SIU report, Choudry walked towards officers with a kitchen knife after they entered his apartment through the balcony door. The report says that after Choudry refused to drop the knife, the officers, fearing for their lives, struck Choudry with both lethal and non-lethal weapons over an eight-second timeframe. 

In the report, Martino said that police were unable to receive help from mental health teams or crisis negotiators in a timely enough manner. 

Choudry’s death sparked multiple protests and calls for police reform, especially in regards to mental health-related calls. 

Last weekend, seven people were arrested after a group of protestors occupied the area of Goreway Drive and Morning Star Drive to speak out against the SIU’s decision. Police say the protestors later moved north on Goreway Drive in an effort to block the railway lines just north of Brandon Gate Drive, at which point arrests were made.

After the SIU released its decision, Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said the police service is working on strengthening its response to mental health calls. 

"I extend my heartfelt condolences to Mr. Choudry's family and friends. The pain and grief felt in the community and within our organization has been profound," Duraiappah said in a statement.

"We recognize that more has to be done to support those in crisis, and police should not be the primary responders called upon to manage mental health calls. While we are addressing the growing needs for mental health support, we know that gaps still exist. I have been working with community stakeholders to address the growing need for mental health services in our Region. In partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association - Peel/Dufferin, we are expanding our Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams (MCRRT) to enhance service for those in distress."

In her statement, Crombie said she's calling on Premier Doug Ford and Solicitor General Sylvia Jones to enact changes to the SIU. 

"SIU reform is necessary and our communities must have assurances that SIU investigations are conducted thoroughly and in a timely manner," Crombie said. 

"Furthermore, I call on the Province to make changes to the Mental Health Act to permit first responders other than police officers to respond to individuals experiencing a mental health crisis."

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