THUNDER BAY – Fort William First Nation Chief Peter Collins is calling on Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro to step down from the Thunder Bay Police Services Board.
The call for the Mayor’s resignation comes following comments made by Mayor Mauro at a townhall meeting earlier this month. The Mayor stated firstly, “We all have the same problems, pretty much. This idea that somehow Thunder Bay is worse than everybody else, and that we’re the hate crime capital of Canada or the murder capital. It’s just taking these stats and using them to sell newspapers and it’s driving me insane.”
Chief Collins has released a letter sent to the Ontario Solicitor General and to Thomas Lockwood:
Senator Murray Sinclair’ s Final Report on the Thunder Bay Police Service Investigation called for “fundamental change” and ” bold measures” to address the daily overt and systemic racism experienced by Indigenous citizens’ resident in and around the city of Thunder Bay.
It is becoming increasingly apparent that in my opinion, we require more immediate and decisive action than what we have currently experienced by the Thunder Bay Police Services Board.
Unfortunately, I have come to the conclusion that in light of the persistent failure by the Mayor of Thunder Bay to acknowledge, by his actions and words, the seriousness of systemic racism that exists, there is an inherent conflict of interest in the Mayor’s seat on the Thunder Bay Police Services Board. I believe it requires that the Mayor be removed from the Thunder Bay Police Services Board and be replaced by further indigenous representation for the immediate future.
Further, in reference to recent events, it is not sufficient for the Mayor to simply clarify which “hat” he has on, a Mayor’s hat or police service board hat.
The Thunder Bay Police Services Board is supposed to be the trusted intermediate between the police and its citizens including Fort William First Nation membership and other Indigenous people living in Thunder Bay. Given the necessity of the Mayor to protect the reputation of the city and the need to address the acknowledged systemic and overt racism experienced by Indigenous peoples, I have no confidence or reassurance as a leader that the Thunder Bay Police Service Board will serve the interests of Indigenous citizens.
I acknowledge the steps taken thus far and understand the systemic problems cannot be changed overnight. However, the three-day cultural awareness training for board members of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board and the on-going actions and remarks of the Mayor in my view are inconsistent with the intent of Senator Sinclair’s recommendations.
Senator Sinclair was clear on his conclusion that the systemic problems with Thunder Bay Police service can be traced back to an absence of leadership from the Board. This has become more apparent and manifests as lack of real on the ground practical ownership and acknowledgement of the issue and action on it.
On September 29, 2017, Fort William First Nation signed a Friendship Agreement with the City of Thunder Bay and Thunder Bay Police Service Board. The intent of this letter is to follow through with that Agreement and is based on respect, honesty and dignity we expressed on that day. Sometimes this requires firm action which I am now expressing in this letter.