THUNDER BAY – NEWS – Yesterday, the Expert Panel to the Thunder Bay Police Services Board delivered its final report titled “Building Trust Through Bold Action Roadmap for Real Change: Final Report of the Independent Expert Panel to the Thunder Bay Police Services Board April 2023.”
Mayor Ken Boshcoff of the City of Thunder Bay welcomes the report and recognizes the guidance of external experts in achieving meaningful transformation. He notes that the report summarizes comprehensive and meaningful community engagement that reflects the issues present in the community, particularly those that impact historically marginalized Indigenous people.
The Expert Panel report states, “In the Spring of 2022, we, the Independent Expert Panel, were engaged by the Thunder Bay Police Services Board (the Board) to provide advice in support of taking immediate actions to address ongoing issues of policing in Thunder Bay. As part of this engagement, we were asked to develop a final report to help guide the Board moving forward. After an initial round of public and private consultations in July of 2022, we identified an urgent need to address three areas, including recruitment of leadership and the strengthening of workplace culture within the Thunder Bay Police Service (the Service), which prompted the release of an Interim Report in September 2022, followed by additional in-person and virtual consultations in October 2022”.
SYSTEMIC Change is Long Overdue
“This is our final report, and we offer it with a sense of urgency. Systemic change is long overdue. The challenges and issues facing the Board and the Service have been well documented through various reports, reviews, and investigations, that, by our count, offer over 550 recommendations, all with varying degrees of implementation and success. It is understandable that people are losing their patience.
“They told us emphatically that the Board and the Service must immediately recognize and visibly implement transformative actions, to begin restoring trust. We acknowledge that the current Board has made some changes that are being facilitated through Administrator Malcolm Mercer and Interim Chief of Police Dan Taddeo.
“Fundamentally, however, more is needed, and change must be sustained. We note the appointment of a new Chief of Police, an experienced senior RCMP officer who is Métis, and the appointment of two highly accomplished and respected Indigenous women to the new Board. However, significant, and substantial transformational change is needed that goes beyond representation within the ranks of the Board and the Service. It is not sufficient to go through a tick-box exercise to deem recommendations complete. Actions must be time-bound and measured against benchmarks to determine success, and progress should be publicly reported to ensure accountability is upheld”.
Mayor Boshcoff emphasizes the importance of having a trustworthy police service and says, “Community members want and deserve a police service they can trust.”
The report’s Action Proposals align with the City of Thunder Bay’s priorities, and Mayor Boshcoff expresses his pleasure in seeing a call for funding from other levels of government.
The Mayor notes, “This aligns with our advocacy for funding that recognizes our city as a regional hub is necessary in order to enhance services to meet residents’ needs.” The Mayor also stresses the need for funding to address gaps in social services and housing, which are under the province’s responsibility and contribute to the high demand for police and other emergency responses.
City Manager Norm Gale will undertake a thorough review of the Action Proposals that involve the City of Thunder Bay and develop recommendations for City Council as necessary. He expresses his commitment to the report guiding the journey to reconciliation, which is a top priority for the city. Gale says, “I expect the report will help to guide our journey to reconciliation. This is a priority to which we are deeply committed.”
Nishnawbe Aski Nation is not impressed it appears
Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum says, “This report shows how this Service’s leadership continues to refuse to accept responsibility for its failures and shows no signs of changing.
“Inadequate investigations, mishandling of cases, and failure to address urgent issues are not a result of being under-funded, they are a result of failure of leadership.
“More than 550 recommendations have been made since 1993 to correct the glaring faults of this Service. Very little work has been done to implement them, and those in authority must be held accountable”.
The Deputy Grand Chief continued, “The path forward for real change must begin with remorse and acceptance of responsibility. It is essential that TBPS senior management and the Board recognize the Expert Panel’s warning that they can no longer continue with the status quo. Ignoring the need to take responsibility and continuing to pass blame onto other entities, like the provincial and federal governments, will not bring progress. I agree that funding is an underlying issue, but it is not the cause of all of the challenges this Service is facing. Without leadership accepting responsibility, it is impossible to expect that serious issues such as systemic racism can even begin to be addressed.”
NAN engaged with the Expert Panel through public consultations and submitted several recommendations on the action required to improve the governance and delivery of policing in Thunder Bay”.
The full report is availiable here: Independent-Expert-Panel-Final-Report-April-13-2023-1.pdf (thunderbaypsb.ca)