Ontario Provincial Police open criminal investigation into Thunder Bay Police Service members


Thunder Bay Police Chief Sylvie Hauth took the top job in 2017.David Jackson/The Globe and Mail

The OPP says its criminal investigations branch has opened a case against members of the Thunder Bay police, but did not say who or what the allegations are.

OPP spokesman Bill Dickson said the force received a request for an investigation from the province’s Ministry of Attorney General last December, but would not provide further details or comment. especially on the duration of the case.

Earlier this month, the Ontario Police Civilian Commission said it was looking into allegations of misconduct against Chief Sylvie Hauth and Deputy Chief Ryan Hughes, including that Deputy Chief Hughes had opened an investigation. criminal offense against a member of the police commission for insufficient reasons.

The commission said it received a request from Ontario Solicitor General Sylvia Jones in January and the Thunder Bay Police Services Board last April to investigate senior members of the service. The Ontario Provincial Police said the request it received from the attorney general was separate from that of the commission’s solicitor general.

Thunder Bay Police Services Board Chair Kristen Oliver said in an email that the board was unaware of the scope of the OPP investigation. She added that the board is concerned that the names of service members have been publicly attached to third-party investigations “in a way that is detrimental to them and contrary to the confidentiality required by the Police Services Act.” Ms Oliver said the council would not suspend Chief Hauth unless objective findings led to such a decision.

Thunder Bay police ‘on the brink of collapse’, council member says

The council suspended Deputy Chief Hughes on January 28 for what he described as an internal human resources issue.

The service and council have been the subject of complaints within it since council member Georjann Morriseau filed a human rights complaint last year against Chief Hauth, his lawyer Holly Walbourne and the advice. Ms. Morriseau alleged discrimination and harassment based on her Indigenous identity and rumors of leaked police information. Eight other members of the service also filed human rights complaints with allegations of corruption, criminality and abuse by senior members.

Chief Hauth took the top job in 2017 – first in an interim role when former chief JP Levesque was suspended after being charged with breach of trust and obstruction of justice for his involvement in a criminal investigation against then-mayor Keith Hobbs. Mr. Hobbs was also charged with breach of trust and obstruction of justice. Both were acquitted and Chief Levesque retired in 2018 as the service and the commission were investigated by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director and the commission.

Ontario Civilian Police Commission to Investigate Senior Thunder Bay Police Officers

A 2018 OIPRD report titled Broken Trust stated that “systemic racism exists within the [Thunder Bay Police Service] at the institutional level. A commission report authored by Senator Murray Sinclair concluded that the council “failed to recognize or address the clear and indisputable pattern of violence and systemic racism against Indigenous people in Thunder Bay.”

The recommendations in these reports were aimed at restoring public trust, particularly with Indigenous peoples and communities. The reports also called for a new investigation into nine sudden death cases involving Indigenous people that the Broken Trust report found problematic, riddled with bias, neglect and systemic failures.

These nine reinvestigations were completed last year, but no findings have yet been made public. Some of the families of those who died expressed frustration with the lack of communication and transparency in the process, which was led by Ontario’s Chief Coroner Dirk Huyer and included Chief Hauth.

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