JUNE 8, 2021 INDEPENDENT REINVESTIGATION DEMANDED BY INDIGENOUS FAMILIES
THUNDER BAY, ONTARIO ~~~~~~ June 8, 2021 (LSN) Two-and-a-half years after the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) recommended that the deaths of at least nine Indigenous people in Thunder Bay be reinvestigated due to serious deficiencies in investigations conducted by the Thunder Bay Police Service (“TBPS”), family members are sounding the alarm over the role of TBPS Chief Sylvie Hauth in the reinvestigations.
Today, families of Indigenous persons whose deaths were neglected by the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) held a press conference at the Victoria Inn in Thunder Bay, and online at Facebook Live. During the press conference, the families will speak to the importance of fulfilling the recommendation of the OIPRD’s Broken Trust report, which called for the independent reinvestigations of at least nine deaths that the TBPS failed to originally investigate. The families are seriously concerned about the role of TBPS Police Chief Sylvie Hauth in the reinvestigations, and the possibility that the reinvestigations will not be truly independent.
The OIPRD launched a systemic review of the TBPS after receiving complaints in 2016 from Brad DeBungee, brother of the late Stacy DeBungee of Rainy River First Nations, and from the Chief of Rainy River First Nations, Jim Leonard. The complaints alleged a pattern of neglect by the TBPS in investigating Indigenous deaths. On December 12, 2018, the OIPRD confirmed in its report, Broken Trust: Indigenous People and the Thunder Bay Police Service, that systemic racism has left Indigenous deaths in Thunder Bay woefully neglected. Indigenous people have been treated as unworthy victims.
The OIPRD issued 44 recommendations for the TBPS to address the systemic issues identified through the OIPRD’s review. The recommendations include the following:
• The creation of a “multi-discipline investigation team” to reinvestigate at minimum the deaths of nine Indigenous people whose deaths were investigated by the TBPS in such a “problematic” manner that new investigations were required. These nine people are Marie Spence, Arron Loon, Christina Gliddy, Shania Bob, Sarah Moonias, Jethro Anderson, Curran Strang, Kyle Morrisseau, and Jordan Wabasse;
• That the multi-discipline investigation team assess whether Stacy DeBungee’s death should be reinvestigated; and
• That the multi-discipline investigation team establish a protocol for determining whether other TBPS sudden death investigations should be reinvestigated.
The “independent” multi-discipline team announced by TBPS Chief Sylvie Hauth and her legal team to the TBPS Board in June of 2019 consists of a three-tier structure. Chief Hauth herself sits on one of those tiers, the Executive Governance Committee. With the news that a reinvestigation report is being prepared, concerns have surfaced about just how independent the reinvestigation process is if Chief Hauth is involved.
Family members have serious concerns about the role of Chief Hauth and her lawyers in determining what is done with information gathered through the reinvestigations. The Terms of Reference state that the Executive Governance Committee is expected to receive all reinvestigations and a final report “for review, approval and public release.” Family members have asked whether Chief Hauth has recused herself from this aspect of the Executive Governance Committee’s work to avoid any conflict. They have been met with silence. Family members have zero confidence in a process that lacks transparency. They will not have any confidence in a report on reinvestigations that Chief Hauth exercises control over.
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