Thunder Bay

Ontario Civilian Police Commission releases interim report on investigation into Thunder Bay police board

Ontario's Civilian Police Commission has released its interim report on the ongoing investigation into the Thunder Bay Police Services Board.

Investigation into civilian board that's charged with local police oversight led by Sen. Murray Sinclair

Sen. Murray Sinclair leading the investigation into the Thunder Bay Police Services Board. (Barry Gray)

Ontario's Civilian Police Commission has released its interim report on the ongoing investigation into the Thunder Bay Police Services Board.

The report was officially released to the public late Friday afternoon.

In the 35-page report, retired judge and current Canadian senator Murray Sinclair — who is leading the probe — noted that he is examining a variety of issues but is paying particular attention to the issue of systemic racism.

"Concerns about systemic racism, discrimination and bias are central to this investigation," Sinclair, who was appointed in July, wrote in the report. 

The investigation was launched because the commission developed "serious concerns" about the state of civilian police oversight and public confidence in the delivery of policing in Thunder Bay, especially in regards to the way the deaths of Indigenous people are investigated.

This examination of the board is also a policy review, Sinclair declared, and "will seek to determine the role the board ought to play in identifying, and combating systemic racism, discrimination and unconscious bias in the future."

Sinclair's probe is separate from another ongoing review by the Ontario Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) that's examining allegations of systemic racism in the way Thunder Bay police carry out investigations into the deaths of Indigenous people.

The civilian police commission has said it will ensure that its investigation "neither interferes with nor duplicates" the police review directorate's efforts.

To date, Sinclair has met with a number of people including First Nations leaders, the Chief Coroner, officials with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services and with the OIPRD.

The report also noted that Sinclair still intends to meet with Indigenous education leaders — including those at Dennis Franklin Cromarty First Nations High School and the Northern Nishnawbe Education Council — and with members of both the police service and its board.

The commission's final report is due March 31, 2018. Sinclair's interim report stated the final document will likely include recommendations on "policy and operational changes," directed at the police services board, and surrounding performance and training requirements.

Sinclair did note, however, that the rest of his investigation could reveal "broader issues about the framework within which the [police board] performs its functions and the advice it receives," including potential issues with the existing Police Services Act.

"If this is the case, the report may offer recommendations for legislative or regulatory changes," Sinclair wrote.