Thunder Bay Police Services Board calls for healing

The chair of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board says the community needs to heal together after the incident involving an e-mail from a police detective.

The chair of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board says the community needs to heal together after the incident involving an e-mail from a police detective.

The e-mail, which was erroneously sent to the media as a news release, referred to the capture of the "Fresh Breath Killer" in a local homicide.

A First Nations man was the victim of that homicide.

In an open letter released today, Joe Virdiramo said the community can learn from what he calls a hurtful incident.

The letter does not address the request by First Nations for a discussion on whether the e-mail was racist.

Virdiramo told CBC News he's open to a discussion about "what we do, what we have done in relation to our police practices and our services."

"In relation to racism … there are perceptions about that and we can certainly talk about that," he said.

Virdiramo noted a police services spokesperson who said police are insulted by the human rights complaint was not speaking for the Police Services Board.

As for the police union's outrage over the complaint, he said all Canadians have a charter right to file such a complaint.

An Open Letter from Thunder Bay Police Services Board

An important conversation in our community has been provoked by the incident in which an ill-considered email from a Thunder Bay Police Service investigator, intended only for the eyes of others within the Service, was erroneously distributed as a media release.

Police Chief J.P. Levesque and the Thunder Bay Police Service have taken and continue to take this incident very seriously. Chief Levesque has acknowledged the email was inappropriate and hurtful and that this incident should not have occurred. Upon learning of it, Chief Levesque directed an internal investigation. At his request and in the interests of accountability and transparency, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director will review that investigation and the Chief's action at its conclusion.

Incidents such as this should never occur and it is most unfortunate that this has happened in the context of a homicide investigation. The Thunder Bay Police Service has recognized this fact. The officer involved has apologized to the family of the deceased, Adam Yellowhead, and the Chief has apologized to Nishnwabe-Aski Nation through its leadership. The Chief is prepared to meet with family and community members.

Our community's Respect initiative encourages us all to challenge the attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that fail to recognize the importance of human dignity. We can and will learn from this unfortunate incident. Regardless of what motivated the email and varying perceptions of that motivation, we recognize that this incident has been hurtful to members of our community and that we need to identify how we can heal from this together and ensure that everyone in our community is respected.

The Thunder Bay Police Services Board and the Thunder Bay Police Service are proud of their tradition of relationship-building within our community. We recognize that this is a continual journey that requires constant effort, commitment, understanding and mutual respect.