Thunder Bay Indigenous Deaths Spark Calls to Disband Police and Seek Outside Investigation

Thunder Bay, Ontario – First Nations leaders in northwestern Ontario are calling for the disbandment of the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) and seeking an outside service to investigate recent deaths of Indigenous individuals. This call comes after the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) laid multiple charges against the former police chief and others linked to the force in response to recent deaths. Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) leaders gathered at Queen’s Park in Toronto along with other First Nations leaders and family members affected by the recent deaths in Thunder Bay.

NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler expressed concerns over the lack of trust in the Thunder Bay Police Service, referring to it as a “cold case factory” when dealing with investigations involving the deaths of Indigenous peoples. The demands for accountability and transparency have intensified following the OPP’s charges against former police chief and others associated with the TBPS.

The Thunder Bay Police Services Board extended condolences to the affected families and communities, emphasizing the importance of building trust with Indigenous communities through transparency and accountability. Despite continuous updates to policies based on community feedback and inquests, reports on the failures of the Thunder Bay police in serving Indigenous populations have revealed systemic racism within the force.

In response to the charges laid by the OPP against former police chief Sylvie Hauth and others, current police Chief Darcy Fleury reiterated a commitment to move the service forward from past challenges inherited from previous leadership. Family members, community leaders, and legal representatives have expressed their expectations for meaningful change and transparency in ongoing investigations related to the recent deaths.

The push for reform has reignited discussions around the future of policing in Thunder Bay, with calls for immediate action to address the deep-rooted issues within the TBPS. The involvement of Ontario’s inspector general of policing, Ryan Teschner, signifies a new phase in oversight and accountability, as efforts are made to rebuild trust and address the concerns raised by First Nations leaders and affected families.

As discussions continue to evolve, the focus remains on seeking justice for the victims and ensuring that the voices of Indigenous communities are heard and respected in the process of reforming law enforcement practices in Thunder Bay. Efforts to collaborate with the OPP on reinvestigations of cases involving Indigenous individuals underscore a commitment to transparency and accountability in addressing past grievances and building a more inclusive and trustworthy policing system.