Senator Murray Sinclair, chair of TRC, named as Thunder Bay police board investigator
Sinclair will investigate variety of issues including investigations into deaths of Indigenous youth
The Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) announced Monday that it has appointed Senator Murray Sinclair, a retired judge, as the independent investigator to look into the Thunder Bay Police Services Board.
Sinclair's hiring was to address the commission's concerns over the state of civilian police oversight and the public confidence in the delivery of police services in Thunder Bay.
The 66-year-old brings a wealth of experience to the task. A former lawyer, Sinclair served as co-commissioner for Manitoba's Aboriginal Justice Inquiry, which studied the relationship between Indigenous communities and the justice system. He was also the chair of Canada's Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). In that role, Sinclair participated in hundreds of hearings across Canada, culminating in the final report, which was delivered in 2015.
The investigation comes after the recent series of deaths involving Indigenous youth in Thunder Bay. Two of the most notable cases happened in May when the bodies of Tammy Keeash, 17, and Josiah Begg, 14, were found roughly two weeks apart in a waterway.
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The OCPC stated in a written release Monday that Sinclair will be investigating the commission's concerns around the police service board's ability to address issues raised by Indigenous leaders relating to those deaths and the quality of the investigations carried out by Thunder Bay police.
He will also be investigating the commission's concerns about the systemic racism they allege exists within the police force and the recent criminal charges laid against the Thunder Bay police chief for "breach of trust and obstruction of justice."
To ensure public confidence in the delivery of police service in Thunder Bay, the OCPC stated that it has initiated an investigation into the police services board and its compliance with a variety of sections of the Police Services Act (PSA). Included in the scope of that investigation is reviewing the board's performance in carrying out its responsibilities to ensure "adequate and effective" police services in Thunder Bay.
They're also looking at the board's role in ensuring that police services provided in Thunder Bay are representative of the communities they serve and that there is cooperation between police and those communities.
The commission stated it will ensure this investigation does not interfere or duplicate the systemic review currently being conducted by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) or any other ongoing police investigations. However, whenever practical, it will cooperate with other organizations carrying out related investigations.
Sinclair's interim report is expected to be completed by October 31, with a final report expected by March 31, 2018.
The reports will be made available to the public and provided to the police service and its board, the Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, and Indigenous communities.
The OCPC is an independent, quasi-judicial agency. Its investigation is not punitive and not directed to any specific conduct issues.