Thunder Bay

OPP confirms criminal investigation into members of Thunder Bay police

Ontario Provincial Police's criminal investigations branch is conducting "a thorough and independent investigation" into allegations of criminal misconduct against some members of the Thunder Bay Police Service.

Attorney general requested investigation in December as TBPS faces human rights complaints

Ontario Provincial Police confirmed Tuesday it's conducting an independent investigation into allegations of criminal misconduct by members of the Thunder Bay Police Service. (Marc Doucette / CBC)

Ontario Provincial Police's criminal investigations branch has confirmed it's conducting "a thorough and independent investigation" into allegations of criminal misconduct against some members of the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS).

OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson said Tuesday the investigation has started, after the attorney general referred an investigation request to the provincial force in December.

The spokesperson said they could not comment on specific details of the case or the investigation, or speculate on how long the investigation would take or the possible outcome, "to protect the integrity of the investigation and any ensuing court processes."

Kristen Oliver, chair of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, declined an interview request from CBC News, but said in a statement the oversight board is "concerned to hear of the investigation, but respectful of the process the OPP is engaged in." 

She said the oversight board has no other information about the scope of the OPP investigation, other than provincial police are responding to a request from the attorney general to look into the matter. 

As to calls to suspend Thunder Bay police Chief Sylvie Hauth, Oliver said the board is not suspending her and "will not unless or until there are objective findings that would lead to such a decision."

A spokesperson for the police force declined to make Hauth available for an interview.

In an email, Chris Adams said any member of the police service is expected to fully co-operate with the OPP investigation, but Adams would not comment further "in the interest of due process." 

It's the latest investigation into the troubled police force in the past month. 

In January, Ontario's solicitor general requested the police watchdog agency, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, to investigate the chief, deputy chief and administration of the police service. The police commission has since launched its own investigation.

Deputy chief suspended

The Thunder Bay Police Services Board suspended Deputy Chief Ryan Hughes pending an internal investigation in late January.

Tuesday's news come as the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is handling at least nine complaints and three followup complaints filed by active and retired officers and civilians with the TBPS, alleging harassment and discrimination based on mental health, race and gender.

The police oversight board has come under scrutiny for its own handling of the complaints, with calls for the board to be dismantled and temporarily replaced by an independent administrator — something requested by one of the board's own members, Georjann Morriseau, who said last month the police service was "on the brink of collapse."

A final report on the reinvestigation of nine Indigenous people who died in Thunder Bay is also expected to go before the police services board in a matter of weeks.

Ontario's Office of the Chief Coroner confirmed there would be a request for additional deaths of Indigenous people to be investigated — although it would not provide additional details on how many deaths would be reinvestigated or when they occurred. The office said the chief coroner would be ordering an independent systemic review of the death investigation process in Thunder Bay.

Less than five years ago, two of Ontario's police oversight agencies — the Office of the Independent Police Review Director and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission — found evidence of systemic racism in the TBPS and the oversight board.

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