Thunder Bay

Police in Thunder Bay, Ont., reopen investigations into deaths of 9 Indigenous people

Police in Thunder Bay, Ont., will re-investigate the deaths of nine Indigenous people with the help of outside agencies, the service's chief said at Tuesday's meeting of the city's police services board.

Cases will be reviewed by multi-disciplinary, multi-agency team

Thunder Bay Police Chief Sylvie Hauth said nine sudden death cases involving Indigenous people will be re-investigated by a multi-disciplinary, multi-agency team.

Police in Thunder Bay, Ont., will re-investigate the deaths of nine Indigenous people with the help of outside agencies, the service's chief said at Tuesday's meeting of the city's police services board.

In an update on the police service's implementation of the recommendations laid out in the Ontario Independent Police Review Director's (OIPRD) report, Sylvie Hauth said the city police service is currently working to assemble a multi-discliplinary, multi-agency team that will review the nine cases.

The deaths that will be reviewed are those of:

  • Christine Gliddy
  • Shania Bob
  • Marie Spence
  • Aaron Loon
  • Sara Moonias
  • Jethro Anderson
  • Curran Strang
  • Kyle Morrisseau
  • Jordan Wabasse

The police service said the goals of the new investigations include transparency, restoring the confidence of the public and affected families, enhancing professional collaboration, and development of the Thunder Bay police investigative team through the application of best practices.

In a presentation to the police board, Hauth said the police service is still putting together the team that will oversee the investigations.

"We're still putting names to the positions," she said. "But the investigative team will comprise ... three separate entities."

Three levels

Those, Hauth said, include an overall executive governance committee, which will oversee the investigations. That will include Hauth, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, and representatives of the Ontario's chief coroner and chief forensic pathologist, and a retired judge.

An investigative resource committee will also be involved, which will include a coroner, pathologist, toxicologist, and both Crown and defence lawyers.

The investigators themselves will include Thunder Bay police officers — but none who investigated any of the cases in the past. Officers with Nishnawbe Aski Police Service, and a retired investigator from an outside police services, will also be involved.

Thunder Bay police legal counsel Holly Walbourne said no timeline to complete the investigations is yet available. The hope is to have them completed within a year, however, she said.

Hauth provided a number of other updates in terms of how the police service is addressing the OIPRD recommendations.

Other recommendations being implemented

Among the changes police have made so far include the establishment of a new Major Crime Unit, which was part of a recommendation to reorganize the service's Criminal Investigation Branch. The Major Crime Unit officially launched on June 1.

The Thunder Bay Police Service is also re-organizing its Aboriginal Liaison Unit, although details are not yet available; more information will be provided at a future police services board meeting.

Police also continue to move forward with a plan to adopt in-car and body cameras for officers, and pursue training opportunities for staff.

Police services board chair Celina Reitberger said she's generally happy with the progress made so far.

"I'd like to see things going faster, but that's just me," she said. "I realize that there are a lot of challenges to get things moving."

"I think we're going in the right direction," Reitberger said.