Reconciliation Circle to begin the healing of systemic racism

Thunder Bay, ON -The perfect place for new beginnings was where the gathering was held on Sunday, January 13th, 2019, at Ka Na Chi Hih Treatment Centre for the Thunder Bay Police Service on Systemic Racism and The sacred words were spoken by many about healing our City and our City’s finest Thunder Bay Police who protect and serve.

”We had the Land, they had they Bible, now we have the Bible, they have the Land”, Chief Dan George.

They honour the blood of Christ with wine –  We honour the blood of Mother Earth with water.

Many wondered why did it not begin with the sacred pipe and a water prayer/song on drums to open the ceremony with these teachings.

Society has taught many shortcuts in the ways of our culture. Is the road paved with good intentions? Praying it is not this way in the spiritual healing process of many emotions of injustice in regaining the trust of mixed feelings of loss and hope was truly seen during the reconciliation circle that was lead by our new Police Services Board and elders to open an important movement facing our city.

The Ontario Independent Police Review Board’s report by Gerry O’Reilly revealing systemic racism is an upcoming year that will be filled with unveiling act of force to protect and serve our community and our future direction of justice that will face our indigenous heritage.

A concern of a community citizen Darryl Snowball was raised when he questioned how seriously will the recommendation #40 of the OIPRD report, regarding the implementation of psychological testing designed to eliminate applicants who have or express racist views and attitudes be taken?

In Ontario, such specific testing is not done. It can be tailored to the Thunder Bay Police Service experience. This testing should be implemented in Thunder Bay on a priority basis.

During the course of this review, Gerry O’Reilly stated in his report, they met with one company, Multi-Health Systems Inc, which has a well-established track record, for use in weeding out potentially racist policing candidates.  It is not terribly expensive.  Its use would not only assist in problematic future officers but promote confidence in the TBPS.

The OIPRD report also states that six months after the release of the report, the TBPS will provide an interim report and following one year after the release of this report, TBPS will report to the OIPRD directly and to the public on the extent to which it has implemented the 44 recommendations.  Indigenous cultural competency and anti-racism education and training must be embedded in the culture of the organization and delivered by the community as promised.

After the two powerful reports by Ontario Independent Police Review Director, Gerry O’Reilly and Senator Murray Sinclair’s recommendations that found systemic racism within the Thunder Bay’s Police Service and their officers dating back many generations, the relationship between our police and the community is in dire need of some healing.

Many supports are going to be needed, especially within our own Indigenous organizations of the lateral violence, sexual, mental and physical violence that members of our community have suffered. Many have felt it has come from our own people who lack the understanding of our seven sacred teachings: Humility, Love, Respect, Honesty, Truth, Bravery and the wisdom to know the difference.

The recommendation of a Grassroots Committee who understand protocols, living it every day to make change is critical.

After Residential school, it woke many of our Indigenous people/Leaders spirits of our own protocols that are necessary. The Indian Act, to take the Indian out of the child and the proven discrimination against our own Indigenous women that was solemnly declared by United Nations  has a history that has been so tainted, our own ceremonies are not being led in ways with the balance of our true understanding of living on earth/MamaAki with respect all living things and acknowledgement of our ancestors who lived before us.

Many hope to see the presence of our Mayor Bill Mauro and Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and in welcoming other leaders that can contribute change to attend at the upcoming gatherings.  It will be a place to hear stories and bring solutions so that we may bring harmony and balance to our beautiful city and the heart of Ontario. Having in attendance, Councillor Peng Yu, Councillor Aldo Ruberto, and Councillor Kristen Oliver is duly noted.

The words that were spoken by Tom Lockwood, who is the lawyer appointed by Senator Murray Sinclair for one year to train the Police Civilian Board and Lawyer Celina Reitberger, who fill the seat on the Police Services Board as the first Indigenous woman to Chair, were words of promising leadership. the first encouraging step they have taken is to begin holding the meetings out of the Police Department Headquarters, and secondly, inviting the community to sit in on the upcoming meetings, possibly beginning on Fort William First Nation.

One of the cases that were investigated that found systemic racism was known by Brad Debungee, whose brother Stacey Dubungee, 41-years-old, was found in the water on McIntyre River behind the Liquor Store in Intercity area in the fall of 2015 after three hours of finding his body ruled out murder. NNL had a chance to speak to him briefly while the break was in session, at this first Reconciliation Circle.

It is important to know that Brad Debungee feels there is hope for change to happen, as many have stated, Speaking up today, tomorrow and every day is crucial now more than ever.  In all divineness, time will tell.

All of Thunder Bay should be working toward the positive changes so needed at the TBPS and at the TBPSB. The eyes of Ontario, and of Canada are watching our city. We need to show the world that our city is a place of peace, a place of truth, and a place of beauty.