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Risk assessment needed for warrant checks

Local 79 President Tim Maguire warns in this deputation to the City’s Community Development and Recreation Committee that requiring shelter staff to undertake warrant checks could pose a health and safety threat, and calls for a risk assessment.


 

 

Dear Councillor Perruzza and Members of the Community Development and Recreation Committee:

RE:      CD31.14 – Authorization for Shelter Staff in the City of Toronto to Conduct “Warrant Checks” as Part of the Admissions Process for Clients When On-Site Staff Deem It Necessary (Ward All)

On behalf of CUPE Local 79 members working at Shelter, Support and Housing Administration, I would like to comment on the matter of “Warrant Checks” that is before the Committee today.

The recommendation, referred by City Council to CDRC, is to reinstate shelter staff undertaking “Warrant Checks” with the Toronto Police Service (TPS) or other appropriate agencies.

The issue of permitting “front-line shelter staff across the City to undertake ‘Warrant Checks’ with the Toronto Police Service…” is a serious workplace issue that must be viewed through a health and safety lens.

Local 79 understands that many of our members deliver services to Toronto’s most vulnerable populations. Homelessness doesn’t exist in isolation. As I indicated in the Social Development Dashboard discussion, low income, the increase in food bank usage and other consequences of income inequality all contribute to the rise in homelessness and the critical need for supportive services. If we want safe communities, we must work to improve health outcomes and reduce poverty and social isolation. We must work to make the shelter system as safe and accessible as possible.

We also know very well that there can be, from time to time, health and safety issues associated with the delivery of these services.

The potential reinstatement of this policy, a change in work for front-line staff, is a case in point.

While there has been a safety issue associated with not checking warrants identified, there is also the potential added health and safety risks in the form of aggressive behaviour or threats of violence against front-line workers administering this policy.

The place to begin this policy discussion is by conducting a risk assessment as per the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

Upon completion of the risk assessment of this type of work, the local Joint Health & Safety Committee will be able to review management’s assessment and make appropriate recommendations on protocols and procedures.

It’s important to involve CUPE Local 79 shelter staff in these discussions because they have the front-line experience in administering these policies and can provide valuable information. At this point CUPE Local 79 is unsure if SSHA staff were, or will be, consulted about this change in work.

CUPE Local 79 would like to request further information on the reinstatement of “Warrant Checks” in Shelters. We would like to know if the risk assessment has been done and that policies and procedures have been put in place before any “Warrant Checks’ are undertaken. Also, what procedures and protocols have been developed with the Toronto Police Service, or other appropriate agencies, to support front-line shelter staff administering “Warrant Checks”?

Yours truly,

Tim Maguire
President, CUPE Local 79

 

 

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