Rainy River Chief McGinnis Leads Call for Chief’s Resignation
THUNDER BAY – First Nations leaders from Rainy River First Nation, Grand Council Treaty 3, and Nishnawbe Aski Nation are calling for the resignation of Thunder Bay Police Service Chief JP Lesveque following the release of a report from the Ontario Independent Police Review Director (OIRPD) in the police investigation following the death of Stacey DeBungee.
At a press event in Thunder Bay this morning at the Victoria Inn, Rainy River and Grand Council Treaty #3 stated, “The OIPRD’s Investigative Report into the death investigation of Rainy River First Nations member Stacy DeBungee found substantial deficiencies in the investigation, including failure of basic policing documented throughout the 126-page report released today”.
“First Nations leaders have joined in Thunder Bay to call for Chief Levesque’s resignation. Failing which, they will ask the TBPS Board to intervene.
“The OIPRD found overwhelming evidence to support the allegation that Detective Shawn Harrison and Detective Constable Shawn Whipple prematurely concluded that Stacy rolled into the river and drowned without any external intervention, substantiating allegations of discreditable conduct. The OIPRD further substantiated allegations of neglect of duty against Detective Harrison and Detective Constable Whipple, and Acting Inspector Susan Kaucharik, citing “substantial” deficiencies in the investigation that “deviated so significantly from what was required.”
Speaking to media, Brad DeBungee said that he found some comfort in the OIRPD report.
Bradley DeBungee, the brother of Stacy DeBungee says, “I knew from the day they found my brother that we were being treated unfairly. I knew that they treated us like we were unimportant. This Report doesn’t ease the pain of my brother’s death, but it confirms that our family’s fears were legitimate. The life of Stacy wasn’t even worth the basic steps of an investigation. I hope that the information in the Report creates real change – because no one should ever be treated like they don’t matter when they are just trying to get answers about the death of a loved one.”
This Chief Needs to Go – Rainy River Chief Robin McGinnis
Rainy River First Nations Chief Robin McGinnis states, “Rainy River First Nations will continue to support the DeBungee family in their very difficult journey. Since Stacy’s death in October 2015, we have challenged authorities to work with us, but we have been stonewalled at every turn. This OIPRD Report not only confirms what we worried is going on, but it is now clear things are much worse. The degree of incompetence and indifference to the lives of First Nations is mind-boggling.”
“Chief Levesque needs to step down to protect any chance for credible change in the Thunder Bay Police Service. If the Chief of police is incapable of understanding the importance of stepping down then it is up to the Thunder Bay Police Services Board to fulfill its mandate and to fire the chief of police. It is shocking that against the backdrop of the Seven Youth Inquest that involved serious and credible allegations of police incompetence in investigating the drowning of indigenous youth – that not two weeks after the start of the Inquest, the Chief of Police would allow yet another investigation to be completely bungled. This Chief needs to go”.
Former Rainy River First Nations Chief Jim Leonard, who along with Brad DeBungee made the initial complaint to the OIRPD states, “We started this process when I was Chief because we believed that we had to support a family who had suffered the ultimate tragedy in the loss of their loved one. This journey has demonstrated that far from this case being unique, there is an ongoing pattern of racism and neglect of our people by the very institution in Thunder Bay that is supposed to make people safe. As a former Chief and a named complainant in the OIPRD proceedings, I fully support the call for the resignation of Police Chief Levesque.”
Incompetence and Indifference – Jim Leonard
“The degree of incompetence and indifference that was displayed regarding Stacy’s death is, of course, unacceptable in any scenario, but to have all of this happen while national attention was already focused on the Inquest that had started a mere two weeks earlier, makes it that much worse. I repeat our original call to the Thunder Bay Police Service Board to work with us to create real change. We wrote the Thunder Bay Police Services Board in October 2016 offering to work with them – I was truly disappointed to receive a letter in December 2016 from the Chair of the Board, Chair Dojack, refusing to meet with Chief and Council. For a public body to cut themselves off from the very people that are suffering as a result of police incompetence is frankly inconceivable. If the Board today is unable to do the right thing regarding Police Chief Levesque, then maybe this Board needs to be disbanded.”
There is no comment from Thunder Bay Police Service citing issues with Section 95 of the Police Services Act.
The following written statement is provided on behalf of the Thunder Bay Police Service by Inspector Don Lewis, from the Professional Standards Branch:
OIPRD Report: Complaint re the Stacy DeBungee Death Investigation
The investigative report in this matter was produced as a result of a conduct investigation undertaken by the OIPRD. It began as a result of a complaint by two members of the public. In such cases, the TBPS is bound by section 95 of the Police Services Act, which directs that strict confidentiality over the complaints process be maintained until the OIPRD directs a hearing into any allegation of misconduct. Until that time, the Service is legally barred from making any comment to the public.
While the OIPRD has directed hearings in this matter, a Notice of Hearing has yet to be served on the affected officers. Before this occurs, an Application must first be heard by the Police Services Board as a result of the passage of time. This, again, is a requirement pursuant to Section 83(17) of the Police Services Act.
The Police Services Act is structured in this way to ensure that the integrity of the process is maintained and to protect the privacy interests of all those who have participated in or are touched by the OIPRD’s investigation. This is why section 95 exists, and why the service cannot comment.
As a result of the foregoing, the Service cannot release any information or make any comment beyond the above. If you wish to know more I would direct you to contact the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.
Police Service Act Section 95
95 Every person engaged in the administration of this Part shall preserve secrecy with respect to all information obtained in the course of his or her duties under this Part and shall not communicate such information to any other person except,
(a) as may be required in connection with the administration of this Act and the regulations;
(b) to his or her counsel;
(c) as may be required for law enforcement purposes; or
(d) with the consent of the person, if any, to whom the information relates. 2007, c. 5, s. 10.