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Human rights lawyer Julian Falconer, quoted in a recent Radio-Canada article from May 5, 2022, on the Thunder Bay Police Service, stated ““I often say that Thunder Bay is ‘ground zero’ when it comes to human rights. If we cannot change business here, we will never be able to change business elsewhere in Canada.”

Mr. Falconer knows better than most about the deeply ingrained racism in the Thunder Bay Police Service (“TBPS”) and how seriously the human rights of Indigenous people in Thunder Bay are ignored. Mr. Falconer’s firm, Falconers LLP, currently represents the family of Stacey DeBungee in the Police Services Act hearing on the racist and inadequate investigation undertaken by the TBPS.

In 2018, two reports painted a deeply critical picture of the TBPS. In the Sinclair Report, Senator Murray Sinclair recommended that the only option for addressing the issues of racism in the TBPS was to disband the TBPS Board and appoint an administrator until new Board members could be chosen and trained. Fast forward four years and very little has changed. The only thing, which is more baffling than the lack of change, is the continued reluctance by those in power in Thunder Bay to act and do something about the treatment Indigenous people face at the hands of police. As the TBPS continues to face further scrutiny for their anti-Indigenous racism, this status quo will continue at least for the near future.

Indigenous people in Thunder Bay are afraid of the police – afraid to speak out against the police and their discriminatory tactics, afraid to be involved in interactions with the police, and afraid to have the police investigate the deaths of their loved ones for fear that the investigation will be inadequate and incomplete.

Radio-Canada notes that Thunder Bay has a greater concentration of Indigenous people than any other urban centre in Canada. Thunder Bay also has the highest homicide rate in Canada, a rate that exceeds much larger cities like Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver. According to Statistics Canada, 75% of homicide victims in Thunder Bay in 2020 were Indigenous.

Falconers LLP, with partners Julian Falconer and Asha James, are proud to stand with Indigenous peoples in their pursuits of justice in all aspects of their lives, particularly where the police are concerned. Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum stated, in reference to the most recent report condemning the actions of the TBPS “This report tells us that we are not worth of being treated humanely. DGC Achneepineskum also acknowledges “I know there are a lot of good police… My concern is the accountability of senior officers who have the power to make a difference and who continue to deny, and that reflects on the entire police service.”

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