The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced that they are conducting a criminal investigation into the actions of members of the Thunder Bay Police Service. The announcement made on Tuesday, February 22, 2022, is subsequent to the request made by the Ministry of Attorney General regarding an investigation into current human rights complaints against the Thunder Bay Police Service.
Ontario Provincial Police spokesperson Bill Dickson confirmed the investigation, saying it's the result of a request made by the Ministry of the Attorney General in December 2021. The statement did not identify the subjects of the probe and clarified that the Ontario Provincial Police investigation is not connected to one being conducted by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission.
“The Anishinabek Nation commends the efforts of the Ontario Provincial Police services in their criminal investigation processes into the Thunder Bay Police Service. The consistency of corruptive behavior and racism displayed from this police service is resulting in continual Human Rights complaints and has been a detrimental factor in unnecessary deaths and mistreatment of members of our Nations,” states Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe. “We hope the outcomes of this investigation assist in the acceleration of the recommendations with the Broken Trust: Indigenous People and the Thunder Bay Police Service Report.”
A separate inquiry called by the Solicitor General is being conducted by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission into the police service’s leadership, including Chief Sylvie Hauth and Deputy Chief Ryan Hughes, who has been suspended since January 28, 2022, highlights the dire state of internal and external affairs of this police service.
Nine individuals with direct experience have filed Human Rights complaints against the Thunder Bay Police Service itself and the Board, alleging harassment and discrimination. This highlights only a small fraction of the deep-rooted, structural problems that exist and thrive in these institutions.
It was announced in early February 2021, that the Ontario Independent Police Review Board would conduct a re-investigation into the nine deaths that were determined by them as not handled appropriately by Thunder Bay Police Service. That re-investigation, led by Chief Coroner Dirk Huyer, has been completed but the report has yet to be released publicly, much to the dismay of the victims’ families.
“We echo the requests of the families of the nine victims whose deaths have been reinvestigated through the Ontario Independent Police Review Board to have the findings released publicly immediately,” states Grand Council Chief Niganobe. “Recommendations from already completed inquiries such as the First Nations Youth Inquest must be implemented immediately to eliminate discriminatory and racist practices that exist within law enforcement. We cannot continue to allow the effects of these colonial institutions to repeatedly marginalize Anishinabek citizens. Reports without action will never lead to reconciliation.”
“Our hope is that the systemic racism present in police services will finally be appropriately and effectively addressed in Thunder Bay and across the province.”
– Northern Superior Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief Melvin Hardy
“We have increasing and valid concerns for our Anishinabek citizens residing in Thunder Bay and look forward to action on this matter. First Nations people are too often the subject of police prosecution and too rarely the subjects of police protection.”
– Lake Huron Regional Deputy Grand Council Chief Travis Boissoneau
“Police and justice reform continue to be a priority for all Anishinabek First Nations. When law enforcement providers such as the Thunder Bay Police Service are so drastically delinquent in their oath and commitment to the Indigenous population, its detrimental impacts are carried throughout our communities.”
– Ogimaa Duke Peltier, Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory Representative for Anishinabek Nation
About the Anishinabek Nation
The Anishinabek Nation is a political advocate for 39 member First Nations across Ontario, representing approximately 65,000 citizens. The Anishinabek Nation is the oldest political organization in Ontario and can trace its roots back to the Confederacy of Three Fires, which existed long before European contact.