Police Board Being Investigated

Posted on Wednesday, May 31, 2017 11:42 AM

Frustration over police investigations is growing for First Nation leaders.  

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation says Thunder Bay Police aren't an option anymore for dealing with the growing number of river deaths in that city.

Rainy River First Nation Chief Jim Leonard says they've lost faith in the service and they want the RCMP to investigate the 2015 death of Stacy DeBungee.  

"Last summer we reached out to see if we could have this case transferred from City Police to the OPP. The City Chief at the time said he wouldn't transfer the file, even speaking to the Commissioner of the OPP, he said he wouldn't get involved because of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director being involved." 

“We are applying for the immediate appointment of an administrator to oversee the Police Board and for a broader review of the Board’s conduct and utter lack of leadership. As far back as last fall when the systemic racism review was announced, Rainy River First Nations along with the DeBungee family, went on record as formally inviting collaboration with Board members in moving forward with the systemic review. As Chief of my community, I was shocked to receive a blanket refusal (in writing) by the Board Chair to even meet with my Council and the family during the currency of the OIPRD review. This kind of bunker mentality is embarrassing for what is supposed to be the civilian oversight body of the police service.” 

NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler says they also have a lack of confidence in the Thunder Bay Police Service Board. They've since sent out a request to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, asking that the Commission exercise its powers to investigate and inquire into the administrative failures of the Board.

NAN officials held a news conference in Toronto this morning. 

Meanwhile, a statement from the police services board says they can't take action in respect to the day to day operations of the police service.

They add they know that systemic racism is a barrier in the community and that their service has a role to play.

Officials says they are supporting an investigation by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission and they will cooperate fully.  They add they recognize the need for public confidence in the police service and its governance.  

They also welcome joining together in moderated meetings with all the parties involved to allow for a frank and fair exchange of concerns and ideas for progress.

Meanwhile, Mayor Keith Hobbs says after repeated invitations to NAN, he would like to have a one on one with Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.  "I have not had a Grand Chief of NAN sit in my office with me since Stan Beardy was Grand Chief.   It's high time for everyone to get together and resolve this issue not make it a national media story."   Hobbs doesn't like what he calls finger pointing.  

He's defending the police board's actions saying it's under the police services act that the board won't have any control over the day to day operations of the service.