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Thunder Bay Police Service skeptical of promises of reform after charges against ex-chief | Radio-Canada News

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While top leaders of the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) and its oversight board say they are committed to accountability and rebuilding trust with the community, indigenous leaders in the region say the words are no longer enough and they must see action.

“The trust in the police is not there,” Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa said Monday, days after former TBPS chief Sylvie Hauth was charged by the OPP (OPP). His comments also followed a press conference by the head of the SPTB, Darcy Fleury, and the president of the Thunder Bay Police Service Board, Karen Machadowhere Machado called the accusations “deeply disturbing.”

“We need to be able to address these issues, and I think we need to be able to implement some of the recommendations that have come out of a number of reports,” Mamakwa said.

Both Machado and Fleury acknowledged there has been an erosion of trust within the northwestern Ontario community and said they understand that recent accusations against Hauth and other members current and former members of the service have sowed doubt about the police force.

Hauth faces four counts: obstructing a public officer or peace officer, breach of trust by a public officer and two counts of obstructing justice. She was formally charged Friday after turning herself in to an Ontario Provincial Police detachment in Nepean.

These charges follow an investigation that began in late 2021, when the Ministry of the Attorney General asked the OPP to investigate allegations of misconduct by members of the TBPS, according to the OPP. This review resulted in an investigation by the Criminal Investigation Branch (CID) of the Ontario Provincial Police, which is ongoing.

Hauth’s hiring as full-time chief in 2018 followed an investigation that found evidence of systemic racism within the force.

In a statement, Hauth’s lawyer said she looked forward to defending herself in court and was “confident she would prevail.”

Hauth was released and is scheduled to appear in Thunder Bay court on May 7.

WATCH | Thunder Bay police officials talk about rebuilding trust after ex-chief’s indictment:

Thunder Bay Police Chief and Oversight Board respond after former chief charged by Ontario Provincial Police

Thunder Bay Police Service Chief Darcy Fleury explains how the police service is trying to rebuild trust in the northwestern Ontario community as three current or former members of the service, including former chief, face criminal charges.

Meanwhile, former Thunder Bay police lawyer Holly Walbourne faces charges of breach of trust and obstruction, while Staff Sgt. Michael Dimini was charged with assault, breach of trust and obstruction of justice.

Sherry Abotossaway, a Thunder Bay criminal defense lawyer and professor at Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin School of Law, said it was important for Fluery to speak directly to Indigenous people.

“Be a face that talks to people and builds that trust, because that’s not going to happen anytime soon,” she said, noting that she hoped the recently filed charges would help. “But I don’t know, just because the record is not that good.”

Jamie Cunningham, a former civilian member of the SPTB who was present at Monday’s press conference, said very little had changed.

“There’s still a lot of misdirection, still a lot of unanswered questions and an inability to admit wrongdoing and build relationships with people who have been wronged,” she said. “Maybe not physically, but definitely mentally and emotionally over the last three years.”

A woman with glasses poses for a photo.
Jamie Cunningham, a former civilian member of the SPTB, says she wants to see the service work to repair relationships in the community. (Marc Doucette/CBC)

Cunningham said she wants to see the TBPS apologize to the people who testified to the OPP during its investigation, and acknowledge “the wrong and say, ‘Yes, we believe you, yes, we hear you and we’re willing to work with you to repair these relationships.'”

In a joint statement released Monday, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum echoed other statements regarding a loss of confidence in the TBPS.

“For years we have expressed serious concerns about the Thunder Bay Police Service and its ability to competently investigate deaths, even to the point where we had to request the disbandment of the service,” reads the statement. the press release.

A woman speaks on a podium.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum said in a joint statement with Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler that NAN has lost confidence in the Thunder Bay Police Service. (Marc Doucette/CBC)

“These calls have been ignored and we are faced with a situation in which families who have lost loved ones find themselves without recourse because they do not trust the work of the SPTB,” the statement said.

“There is absolutely no confidence in the TBPS or its ability to competently investigate the deaths of Indigenous people.”

Fiddler and Achneepineskum said they were “disappointed” with the response from Fleury and the Police Services Board, as they said it places “the onus on the community to identify and resolve systemic issues while failing to recognize the trauma experienced by our members and communities who have lost loved ones without credible answers or investigations. »

“The problems plaguing the SPTB and its board of directors are not resigned to history nor the result of a few bad apples. They arise from deep systemic problems that persist and have not yet been resolved.

WATCH | Thunder Bay police are committed to restoring public trust, but some are skeptical:

Thunder Bay Police Chief commits to restoring public trust

The Thunder Bay Police Service is committed to rebuilding public trust after charges were filed against a former chief, but some community members and Indigenous leaders say they are skeptical the police service will be able to re-form.

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