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Police watchdog recommends reopening nine Indigenous sudden death investigations in Thunder Bay after review

Thunder Bay

Gerry McNeilly. APTN file photograph

Willow Fiddler
APTN Information
Police in Thunder Bay did not correctly examine a minimum of nine sudden death investigations of Indigenous individuals in the town, a long-awaited report has discovered.

In its report, launched Wednesday, the Workplace of the Unbiased Police Review Director (OIPRD) referred to as the Thunder Bay Police Service’s (TBPS) investigations into quite a lot of sudden deaths in the town “inadequate” and “so problematic that at least nine of these cases should be reinvestigated.”

In his report, titled Damaged Belief, Indigenous Individuals and the Thunder Bay Police, Gerry McNeilly reviewed 37 Thunder Bay police investigations, most of them lacking individuals and homicides, and principally involving Indigenous victims.

The unbiased director discovered “significant deficiencies” in how TBPS data or maintains 11 investigation information.

“A number of TBPS investigators involved in these investigations lacked the expertise and experience to conduct sudden death or homicide investigations,” McNeilly stated about his findings.

McNeilly referred to as the connection between Indigenous individuals and Thunder Bay police “nothing short of a crisis.”

The 196-page report delivered 44 suggestions associated to sudden death investigations, the Legal Investigations Department and the operations and relationships between TBPS

McNeilly stated he turned more and more conscious of the strained relationship between the TBPS and Indigenous individuals through the years.

“I raised the issue with the police chief on a number of occasions, but remained unconvinced that TBPS’s responses improved the relationship,” he says in the report.

It’s the primary systemic review of a police service in the province.

McNeilly has carried out different systemic critiques associated to police oversight however not one which particularly checked out how forces police Indigenous individuals.

McNeilly stated he initiated the systemic review of TBPS after he acquired complaints concerning the 2015 death invetigation of Stacey DeBungee, a First Nations man from Wet River First Nation discovered in the McIntyre River.

“Indigenous leaders and community members told me that TBPS investigations of Indigenous deaths and other interactions with police devalued Indigenous lives, reflected differential treatment and were based on racist attitudes and stereotypical preconceptions about Indigenous people,” McNeilly stated.

The OIPRD reviewed DeBungee’s death investigation and located two TBPS investigators responsible of discredible conduct final winter.


A few of McNeilly’s suggestions embrace: 

-The inadequacy of the TBPS sudden death investigations the OIPRD reviewed was so problematic that at the very least nine of the instances ought to be reinvestigated.

-A multi-discipline group ought to be established to reinvestigate, at a minimal, the deaths of the nine Indigenous individuals recognized. The group ought to embrace representatives from TBPS, a First Nations police service, outdoors police service(s), the Workplace of the Chief Coroner and the Workplace of the Chief Forensic Pathologist. The workforce also needs to set up a protocol for figuring out what further death investigations must be reinvestigated.

-TBPS ought to provoke an exterior peer-review course of for sudden death and murder investigations for at the very least the subsequent three years.

-TBPS ought to focus proactively on actions to get rid of systemic racism, together with eradicating systemic limitations and the basis causes of racial inequities in the service.

-TBPS management ought to publicly and formally acknowledge that racism exists in any respect ranges inside the police service and that it’ll not tolerate racist views or actions. TBPS management ought to interact with Indigenous communities on the discussion board for and content material of those acknowledgements. This might be an essential step in TBPS advancing reconciliation with Indigenous individuals.

-The Thunder Bay Police Providers Board ought to publicly and formally acknowledge racism exists inside TBPS and take a management position in repairing the connection between TBPS and Indigenous communities.

-TBPS management ought to create a everlasting advisory group involving the police chief and Indigenous management.

-The Workplace of the Chief Coroner, Ontario’s Chief Forensic Pathologist, the Regional Coroner and TBPS ought to implement the Thunder Bay Death Investigations Framework on a precedence foundation. The framework clarifies roles and obligations, improves communication and will increase info sharing to make sure goal, top quality death investigations.


These considerations are usually not new for Indigenous individuals in Thunder Bay.

The scholar inquest in 2015-2016 appeared on the deaths of seven First Nations college students attending highschool in the town between 2000-2011.

McNeilly reviewed sudden death investigations going again to 2009, in addition to the seven scholar death investigations.

4 of the instances the OIPRD recommends reopening look like from the Coroner’s scholar inquest. APTN Information matched the dates of the instances in the report with these names: Jethro Anderson, Curran Strang, Kyle Morrisseau and Jordan Wabasse.

McNeilly says the considerations about Thunder Bay police date again even additional.

“That the questions raised by Indigenous people in 1993 remained as valid as they did some 25 years ago, was deeply troubling, and demanded an urgent and comprehensive response,” McNeilly writes in the report.

The report additionally consists of suggestions that the TBPS “initiate an external peer-reviewed process for sudden death and homicide investigations for at least the next three years.”

It additionally recommends the drive and its board “publicly and formally acknowledge racism exists at all levels within the police service and that it will not tolerate racist views or actions,” that TBPS management “create a permanent advisory group involving the police chief and Indigenous leadership,” and that the pressure take motion to get rid of systemic racism, together with eradicating systemic limitations and the basis causes of racial inequities in the service.”

On Wednesday afternoon Meeting of First Nations Nationwide Chief Perry Bellegarde referred to as the report “tragic” and “unsurprising,” saying in a press release its findings “reinforce what First Nations have been saying for years — systemic racism is clearly one thing that must be addressed in a profound and substantial method.

“Obviously, current approaches to investigating the deaths and disappearances of First Nations fail all of us, erode trust and exacerbate already strained relationships,” Bellegarde stated, calling on the TBPS to “work with First Nations to take action on the recommendations.”

In a press release launched shortly after the announcement Wednesday Thunder Bay Police Chief Sylvie Hauth stated in a written assertion her drive “acknowledge[s] that there are systemic barriers in policing that must be addressed,” and that they’ll “want time to review and contemplate all the particular suggestions.

“With help from this report, the service continues to work towards bias-free policing. In the coming days, we will examine these recommendations. It is our hope that they will be of great value as we continue to build trust with the Indigenous community,” she stated

“If we are to understand the broken relationship between Indigenous people and police, we must first understand the history and impact of colonization on Indigenous people,” McNeilly writes in the report.

“Much of the suspicion and distrust that Indigenous people feel toward police is rooted in a history of colonial policies.”

After the OIPRD report was launched the Ontario Civilian Police Fee (OCPC) introduced it’s going to launch its review of the TBPS board on Friday.

That investigation was launched in July 2017 after Indigenous leaders raised shared considerations across the deaths of Indigenous college students in Thunder Bay. It’s being led by Canadian Senator Murray Sinclair, who additionally led the Fact and Reconciliation Fee’s work.

wfiddler@aptn.ca

@willowblasizzo





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