THUNDER BAY – Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler has issued the following response to an unprecedented report by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission that recommends the disbandment of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board.
“We maintain our commitment to holding the Thunder Bay Police Service Board accountable for its blatant disregard for the concerns of Indigenous people in Thunder Bay. The lack of oversight and direction from the Board has put the officers and the citizens of Thunder Bay in harm’s way,” said Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “The report speaks for itself – the Board is in need of an overhaul. We need a new Board that can address the roots of systemic racism in the Thunder Bay Police Service.”
Among the troubling findings of Senator Murray Sinclair’s extensive investigation:
- The Board has failed to recognize and address the clear and indisputable pattern of violence and systemic racism against Indigenous people in Thunder Bay. Moreover, the Board’s failure to act on these issues in the face of overwhelming documentary and media exposure is indicative of willful blindness.
- The Board is directed under the Police Services Act to show leadership to ensure success of the service they oversee – as defined in the law as “adequate and effective policing” – and address this duty through the planning and policy tools available to them. The Board has failed to do so.
Due to a lack of confidence in the Thunder Bay Police Service Board, First Nation leaders from NAN and Grand Council Treaty #3 requested that the Commission, the statutory governing body for police boards in Ontario, exercise its powers to investigate and inquire into the administrative failures of the Board.
“We endorse the recommendations and we agree with Senator Sinclair that bold measures are needed. We will support any earnest efforts by the City of Thunder Bay and the Board but will continue to hold them accountable for their actions, or lack thereof,” said Fiddler. “It is unacceptable however that an Administrator was so hastily selected without any consultation from the Indigenous community and the Thunder Bay community in general. Policing in Thunder Bay presents unique challenges and realities and it is critical that the Administrator is well versed in these issues and has an established rapport with Indigenous people.”
The OCPC report follows a scathing report by the Ontario Independent Police Review Director documenting systemic racism in the Thunder Bay Police Service. It recommended new investigations into nine cases involving the deaths of Indigenous people and made 44 recommendations.