Thunder Bay police outlined the recommendations they'd like to see made by jurors at the inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations students in the northwestern Ontario city.
Deputy Police Chief Andy Hay testified at the inquest on Tuesday, saying police have already made changes to policies and procedures as a result of the student deaths.
For example, Hay says internal communications were improved after police noticed a "lag time" of six days in the reaction of its criminal investigations branch after 15-year-old Jethro Anderson was reported missing in 2000.
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The inquest into the deaths of seven young people from remote First Nations who came to Thunder Bay to attend high school is expected to wrap up in March.
Here are seven recommendations Hay said Thunder Bay police would like to see come out of the inquest:
- 1. Timely reporting of missing persons to police
There is no waiting period for reporting someone missing to police.
Hay says the "trigger point" for getting police involved in a search for a missing student is "if there's a parent, a teacher, a boarding parent or counsellor that is concerned" and actively searching for the student themselves.
- 2. Indigenous representation on the police services board
Hay says the last time he remembers there being an indigenous person on the governing board for Thunder Bay police was a man named Philip Edwards in the early 1990s.
- 3. An 'advocate' to act as a liaison between police and First Nations families involved in tragedy
Hay says communications between the police and First Nations families from remote communities is "fraught with missed connections".
He says having a recognized advocate working with families, and protocols around privacy, would help improve the flow of information to the appropriate family members in times of crisis
- 4. Increased access to personal information about students
Hay says police would like to see First Nations schools produce "information sheets" about each student that would be available to police.
The sheets could include photos, names of friends, contact information for family members and addresses for social media accounts, Hay says.
"This is not something police want to house," Hay says, adding the information would only be used by police for missing persons cases and not "general investigations."
Hay would also like to see the inquest jury support proposed "stand-alone" missing persons legislation that would allow police to breach privacy regulations, gaining access to medical records or GPS trackers on smart phones of people reported missing.
- 5. Training for First Nations volunteer searchers
Hay says the efforts of First Nations members to find missing students are "really appreciated" by police, but there is a "danger" that they could inadvertently interfere with evidence.
Police would like to see an "educational component" for community searchers about the risks of disturbing evidence.
- 6. A single liaison person from First Nations schools in dealings with police
"If we have a missing person we need to be able to have a contact person that we can flow our information to, and access information from, in that organization," Hay says.
- 7. A partnership with LCBO to identify 'runners'
Several former students have testified about paying an older person in money, cigarettes or alcohol, to purchase alcohol for them when they weren't old enough to buy it themselves. Students call the people who provide the service "runners".
Hay says a police partnership with liquor stores could help identify people who make "unusual" purchases such as several mickeys of different kinds of alcohol.
"If kids want to get it, they're going to find alcohol somewhere," Hay says. "We're never going to eliminate it, we can only curtail it."
Watch live streaming video from the First Nation student deaths inquest here.
Follow CBC Thunder Bay reporter Jody Porter as she tweets from the inquest.