Thunder Bay

Thunder Bay Police Services Board regains voting rights after governance, cultural awareness training

After some "intense" governance and cultural sensitivity training, it was announced Tuesday that members of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board regained their voting rights.

Board members spent 3 days on governance training, 3 days on cultural awareness

Thomas Lockwood (second from left), the acting administrator of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, says board members Mayor Bill Mauro (left), Celina Reitberger (centre), Kristen Oliver (right) and Georjann Morriseau (far right) have had their voting rights restored following successful governance and cultural sensitivity training. (Cathy Alex/CBC )

After some "intense" governance and cultural sensitivity training, it was announced Tuesday that members of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board regained their voting rights.

In December 2018, the board was stripped of their voting rights by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission after two highly-critical reports revealed the existence of systemic racism within the board and the local force.

"Now, the board has done their training, so they have their votes back," said Thunder Bay Police Services Board acting administrator, Thomas Lockwood, "so right now, because we are one member short, I am still on the board and I still have a vote. If there is a deadlock, I have the deciding vote."

He said the remaining position is a provincial appointee and the board is "hopeful" the position will be filled soon.

The training courses the board completed were a three-day, interactive course on governance as well as a three-day cultural awareness training in the form of a blanket exercise.

"In the governance training, its what is it to be a board member, what are your duties, what are your obligations," Lockwood explained, "and we expanded the people who are taking the training from just board members, and we had members of the association present, we had members of the police services present, we had members of the city staff present and we also had members from the provincial government present. So there were about 25 to 30 of us that took the training.

He said the three day governance course was "very intensive" and interactive with question and answer periods and a run through of the history of governance. 

Thomas Lockwood, acting administer for the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, says the the work of the board is about half way complete. (Cathy Alex/CBC)

The other training that the board had to complete was a cultural awareness course, with a elder present to help explain.

"It's very emotional, it makes you think a lot about who you are, your background, and whose land you are on etc, but it was done very well," he said.

He said the job of the board is about "half-way along" as they still have to update the board's policy, select a deputy chief, and create a business plan, which needs the consultation of the community.

"The board was criticized for its policies," Lockwood said, citing the example of the search for, and hiring of a deputy chief. "We looked at the policy of the board and it was outdated. It was from 2001, I think. So we are going to update that policy and we are going to work to get a new deputy chief."

He said on Monday, members of the board "spent three hours ... deciding" how they would like to get the community involved in creating the business plan. 

'Very pleased, very happy' to complete training

The Chair of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, Celina Reitberger said the response from the members on both the governance and cultural awareness training was positive.

"I am very pleased, I am very happy that the board did the training, and I think we are well on our way, " Reitberger said. "I think it's really focused us ... and with the respect to the cultural training, I think there was a very positive response and it just opens up people's minds and understanding of where we are coming from."

She said the board has now been given the tools to move forward in the right direction as she believes the training has inspired them.

"The big issue here is systemic racism, so we have to address it and it's very challenging because it's a red flag sometimes, but I think with the knowledge that was gained with the training, a lot of those red flags have been lowered," Reitberger explained, adding that she hopes the information gained during the cultural training is shared across the entire force.

"I have spoken to the Chief because one of the things I'm very excited about is having some restorative justice training for the force."