Thunder Bay

Gull Bay First Nation demands meeting with OPP head after sergeant allegedly left a man on remote highway

The leaders of a First Nation in northwestern Ontario say provincial police are lacking transparency about the complaints against a sergeant, including she allegedly left an Indigenous man on the side of a remote highway in 2019, and are demanding to speak with the OPP's commissioner.

Police won’t say if commissioner will agree to meeting amid growing complaints by First Nation in Ontario

The chief of Gull Bay First Nation Wilfred King stands at a podium and speaks to reporters at Queen's Park in Toronto, Ontario.
Wilfred King, chief of Gull Bay First Nation, is calling on the Ontario Provincial Police's commissioner, Thomas Carrique, to meet with him to discuss complaints about the policing service provided by the nearby Armstrong detachment in northern Ontario. (Legislative Assembly of Ontario)

Leaders of a First Nation are demanding to speak with Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Thomas Carrique over officers' conduct and other issues, heightened by complaints against a sergeant who allegedly left an Indigenous man at the side of a remote highway in 2019.

"We're hoping that he would respond. It's his duty to respond. He is a public servant. He's here to protect and serve all members of Ontario," said Gull Bay Chief Wilfred King during a news conference Tuesday afternoon at Queen's Park.

King said the OPP has failed to provide transparency about their investigation into the alleged actions of the former lead of the nearby Armstrong detachment. It's alleged that in 2019, the sergeant drove an Indigenous man 10 minutes outside Armstrong and told him not to return or he would be charged with trespassing. The township is 250 kilometres north of Thunder Bay and 70 kilometres north of Gull Bay.

It's one of three serious complaints the First Nation has made directly to Carrique about Sgt. Tammy Bradley, who has been reassigned to "non-front-line duties" in another part of Ontario since February.

OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson said two of the three complaints have been resolved and they're looking into the other allegations. King disputes this, saying the First Nation hasn't received answers to any of their questions.

Dickson didn't say if Carrique would agree to meet with the leadership of Gull Bay or other nearby First Nations.

Chief cites ongoing issues with OPP

Those complaints also don't include recent issues with OPP officers based in Armstrong that King said have demonstrated a lack of understanding and respect for the governance processes of First Nations.

Most recently, King said, the newly appointed team leader for the Armstrong detachment refused to provide peacekeeping services as requested by himself and a majority of the band council.

The First Nation had requested that Hydro One disconnect a number of community buildings deemed beyond repair as part of their housing services, so they could then be demolished and new buildings constructed to replaced them.

WATCH | Chief Wilfred King demands a meeting with the OPP commissioner:

First Nation chief demands meeting with OPP commissioner

17 days ago
Duration 2:13
Gull Bay Chief Wilfred King calls for 'nation-to-nation' conversations with Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Thomas Carrique after an OPP officer allegedly left a man on the side of a remote northern Ontario highway in the summer of 2019.

Anticipating some resistance, King said they asked the OPP detachment to attend and monitor the situation. But when some community members angered by the council's decision arrived to the site, and one band councillor said he was not authorizing the disconnection of the house, King said the newly appointed detachment sergeant said it was clear the First Nation needed to "do some more talking about this" and she could offer her services "as a mediator."

Gull Bay band administrator Beth Boon said it was at that point the sergeant said, "Well, we're going to back off. We're not going to enforce anything right now," which effectively stripped away the decision-making power of the chief and band council, she said.

That's when Hydro One technicians left, citing fears for their personal safety, Boon said. She added the First Nation will now file an injunction so it can continue with it housing program as previously approved by the band council.

'We have no security in the community'

King said the Hydro One situation along with recent threats of violence toward First Nation employees have created a dire situation in Gull Bay.

"Right now, we have no security in the community. It's the position of chief and council that we cannot afford anybody any kind of protection because we have a lack of police service in the community," King said in an interview with CBC News.

"So right now, basically you have mob rules in the community and there is no law and order."

All buildings and non-essential services have been closed in Gull Bay for nearly a week, with staff in the First Nation expressing safety concerns, he added.

"There's a real lack of trust with OPP leadership," King said, adding the mistrust goes back years, since Gull Bay passed a band council resolution in 2017 prohibiting OPP officers from entering the community.

In an emailed statement, Dickson said the OPP has always responded to events posing an "imminent threat to public safety and will continue to do so," and acknowledged the resolution only permits OPP members to come into Gull Bay's territory in response to 911 emergency calls. 

Dickson had not yet responded to questions about recent events in Gull Bay at the time of publication.

Clarifications

  • This story has been updated to clarify Chief King's reaction to how the OPP has responded to the three complaints filed against Bradley.
    Nov 15, 2022 11:00 AM ET

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Logan Turner

Journalist

Logan Turner has been working as a journalist for CBC News, based in Thunder Bay, since graduating from journalism school at UBC in 2020. Born and raised along the north shore of Lake Superior in Robinson-Superior Treaty Territory, Logan covers a range of stories focused on health, justice, Indigenous communities, racism and the environment. You can reach him at logan.turner@cbc.ca.

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