Thunder Bay Police Chief Complains Racism an Expensive Enterprise

It Takes a Village to Raise a Racist Police Service: Julian Falconer Presents at the Ontario Trial Lawyers Conference in Toronto

The Indigenous population in Thunder Bay Ontario has long been over-criminalized and under-protected. Local media outlets have consistently painted a skewed picture of the realities in Thunder Bay and continue to foster and shelter a racist police service.

Julian presented on the journey of holding a police service accountable in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

From the circumstances which lead to the Seven Youth Inquest in 2015, to the Thunder Bay Police Service’s (TBPS) failure to investigate the death of Stacy DeBungee, to the subsequent Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) and Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) investigations into the failings of the TBPS and the TBPS Board respectively, the legacy of systemic racism in Thunder Bay policing is as lengthy as it is concerning.

As these events unfolded, Chief of TBPS, Sylvie Hauth, continually refused to acknowledge the reality of systemic racism in Thunder Bay and instead has reassured the public that there is no crisis in Thunder Bay and it is “business as usual” for the TBPS. Even more recently, in a Chronicle Journal newspaper article, Hauth has cited “legal issues like the Stacy DeBungee investigation and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission’s Review” as causes for the TBPS Board being over budget. The fact that Chief Hauth considers these to be “budget” issues is only further evidence of the TBPS’ denial of the systemic issues that plague the service.

Recently, retired Justice Lee Ferrier ordered that a hearing to determine whether TBPS officers will face disciplinary proceedings was to proceed behind closed doors and be kept secret from the public. CBC, supported by the family of Stacy DeBungee and Rainy River First Nations, successfully sought an injunction to have the hearing stayed until Mr. Ferrier’s decision is judicially reviewed this December.

The injunction application was heard and granted by Justice Pierce. In sharp contrast to Chief Hauth, Justice Pierce understands the significance of addressing the concerns of racist policing in Thunder Bay and further, the significance of having those concerns addressed in a public way.

In Justice Pierce’s detailed ruling, she states, “Because of the complaint underlying this process – that policing practices related to Indigenous citizens in Thunder Bay are racist it is even more critical that every step in the complaint procedure be dealt with transparently.”

Further, at paragraph 49 she states: “Failing to proceed openly will only sow distrust in the complaints procedure. It will do nothing to address the community’s question about whether Thunder Bay’s approach to policing indigenous matters is racist.”

The efforts to have the Thunder Bay Police Service held accountable, and held accountable in the open, continue.

Julian Falconers Presentation: Holding an Entire Police Service to Account: The Legal Journey in Calling Out Police Racism Against Indigenous People in Thunder Bay

Ontario Trial Lawyers Association Conference Brochure. 


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