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Solutions to systemic racism in Thunder Bay can have 'positive impact' across Ontario: regional chief

Ontario's regional chief says that any solutions to combat systemic racism in policing in Thunder Bay can have a "positive impact" elsewhere in the province.

RoseAnne Archibald says issues highlighted in Thunder Bay also exist elsewhere, need to be addressed

RoseAnne Archibald is the Ontario Regional Chief. (Supplied/Laura Barrios)

Ontario's regional chief says that any solutions to combat systemic racism in policing in Thunder Bay can have a "positive impact" elsewhere in the province.

RoseAnne Archibald was reacting to two highly critical reports released last week by the Ontario Independent Police Review Director and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission that highlighted systemic racism in the local force and the board of civilians tasked with overseeing it.

"Thunder Bay can, perhaps, be a model of how to address systemic racism in the police force, come up with some solutions that we can apply across the province," Archibald told CBC News. "This is not just a Thunder Bay problem, it's a problem that exists in other areas of Ontario."

The report by police review director Gerry McNeilly found racism played a role into how the deaths of dozens of Indigenous people were investigated and called for several cases to be reopened; the report prepared for the civilian police commission by Sen. Murray Sinclair found that the state of police oversight in Thunder Bay constituted an "emergency."

The commission subsequently stripped the current board of its power and appointed an administrator to run it.

"This is an ongoing safety issue that must be addressed in true partnership with First Nation communities in Thunder Bay and across this province immediately," Archibald was quoted as saying in a written statement.

Archibald added in her statement that she sees leadership in the region as "champions" for change across Ontario, adding that she stands with Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Grand Council Treaty 3, Rainy River First Nation and other leaders.  Rainy River First Nation was the home of Stacy DeBungee, whose flawed death investigation by Thunder Bay police effectively triggered McNeilly's and Sinclair's investigations.

"The solutions found on the ground in those areas can have a positive impact across the province."

Archibald also commended Thunder Bay police chief Sylvie Hauth and the police services board for acknowledging systemic racism within the Thunder Bay Police Service and the past failures of the board, and what that has meant to the Indigenous communities in Thunder Bay and the region.
Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald commended Sylvie Hauth, the police chief in Thunder Bay (pictured), for her part in acknowledging systemic racism in the Thunder Bay Police Service. (Christina Jung / CBC)

"When I think about how this has unfolded, Thunder Bay and the leadership in northwestern Ontario are playing such a key role now," Archibald said. "If there's ongoing denial that these things don't exist, then we can't get to solutions."

"It very much is a problem that needs to be solved."

The Ontario Regional Chief also expressed her wish to see "a clear action plan to ensure First Nations people are safe and protected in Thunder Bay."

"When we think about solutions, one of the core values that is missing that we have to think about as well is a deep and abiding love and care for one another," Archibald said.

"If we can look at those common values and those kind of concepts and infuse them into our systems, then everybody is viewed as somebody who is valuable, somebody who is deserving of love and care."