Georjann Morriseau says that the charges laid against Thunder Bay Police Chief Sylvie Hauth will eventually prove that she wasn’t “lying, crazy or self serving” after all.
Morriseau, former chair of the Thunder Bay Police Service Board and former chief of Fort William First Nation, just outside the city, made the comments on her Facebook page a day after the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) lodged misconduct charges against Hauth.
“I as a board member have remained committed to the overall public interest and service needs. While it’s still the beginning, at least some action is finally being taken by appropriate over site body to address these critical challenges,” she said.
The challenges within the police service and the board have been building for some time.
Morriseau told APTN’s Face to Face in May that after becoming chair of the police board, she began seeing things she was “not comfortable with,” including rumours of alleged police leaks to the operator of a controversial Facebook page.
According to a press release from Morriseau’s legal counsel, Morriseau brought the rumour to the attention of the deputy chief of police and took part in numerous interviews about the matter, conducted by senior Thunder Bay police officials and the police service’s legal counsel.
Shortly after, Morriseau was replaced as board chair in an election she said was held one month early, “without explanation.”
Morriseau said she was shocked to find out later that she had been the subject of an internal Thunder Bay police investigation and that her cell phone records had been sought through “a production order on her personal cell phone.”
“I was actively being harassed, targeted. Every board meeting was just a nightmare,” Morriseau said on Face to Face. “I was being accused of lying, I was being accused of not understanding and being incompetent.
“I had comments made to me by the secretary and even the current board chair, that was at time referencing the fact that I’m First Nations from the reserve and that things are done differently out there.”
Shopping at Home Sense
For Morriseau, it all began in August 2020 and a seemingly innocent shopping spree at a Home Sense store in the city.
At some point during her shopping, she was approached by a man wearing a COVID-19 mask and who appeared to be a Thunder Bay police officer.
He informed her that members of the BEAR [Break, Enter, Armed, Robbery] unit were gossiping about a text message from a civilian to a member of the unit.
“Hey Mike, I see they are thanking members of the Thunder Bay Police in their bust announcement. Any anonymous info about what hardworking TBPS officers did?” read the text that was being investigated as a leak from the department.
According to the OCPC statement released on June 23, 2022, it wasn’t the text that was of concern, it was what happened after Morriseau reported her encounter to a deputy chief on the police force and how Sylvie Hauth handled the information.
Hauth didn’t respond to a request for comment from APTN News.
Hauth has been under fire for her seemingly lackadaisical approach to solving critical issues within the Thunder Bay police service including death investigations.
The force itself is under investigation for how it handled several death investigations involving Indigenous people. Several investigations have been reopened and some officers are under investigation themselves for how they handled cases.
The statement of particulars released by the OCPC said that Morriseau would eventually be under investigation.
She had told an officer that she knew that his name came up during an investigation into a leak at the department.
“A criminal investigation was initiated against Chair Morriseau for an alleged breach of trust and obstruct police under the Criminal Code,” the OCPC statement said. “The basis for the investigation was Chair Morriseau telling Det. Rybak that his name came up in the internal investigation as a possible suspect in providing her with information about the text message.”
That was Nov. 19, 2020. Four days later, DC (Detective Constable) Hughes informed his boss, police chief Sylvie Hauth that Morriseau was being investigated.
The investigation by the Thunder Bay police of its board chair would continue for almost a month and include going to court to gain access to her phone records.
But in mid-December, Hauth changed her mind and requested that the Ontario Provincial Police take over the investigation.
On Dec. 24, “the OPP investigation was assigned to its Criminal Investigations Branch,” the OCPC said.
The OCPC assert that Hauth didn’t have the authority under the Police Act to allow an investigation into a board member to continue.
As chief of police, her duties were to tied to “overseeing its operations in accordance with the objectives, priorities and policies established by the board,” the OCPC said. The chief reports to the board.
According to the OCPC, Hauth acknowledges this in a later memo to the board. On Oct. 12, 2021 she wrote, “it would not be appropriate for a police service to investigate any of its members or board members…”
“Chief Hauth’s commission in tacitly or overtly consenting to this criminal investigation or omission in not immediately terminating or transferring a criminal investigation into Chair Morriseau to another police service was likely to bring discredit to the Thunder Bay Police Service,” the OCPC wrote.
“Because she knew or ought to have known that she placed her office as Chief in an irreconcilable conflict between her duty to account to the Board and the duty of her Service to conduct a fair and unbiased investigation.”
On Aug. 24, 2021, the OPP cleared Morriseau of any criminal wrongdoing.
On Sept. 30, the provincial force provided Hauth with an executive summary of its investigation.
Fast forward to Oct. 12, the OCPC said Hauth then wrote a “Confidential Memorandum” regarding the OPP investigation to the board.
According to the OCPC, “the report contained a number of false statements which would lead the reasonable reader to conclude that she [Hauth] had no knowledge that DC Hughes had initiated a criminal investigation against Chair Morriseau until December 9, 2020.
That memo was distributed to the Board members on October 12, 2021, and it was anticipated they could rely upon it for the truth of its contents.”
The OCPC statement continued, “She failed to mention that she had knowledge prior to December 9, 2020 that: DC Hughes had initiated a criminal investigation; Det Rybak was going to be interviewed on November 26 and was interviewed on that day; and the Service was going to apply for a Production Order on December 1, 2020.
“Chief Hauth deceived or attempted to deceive the Board members in her October 12, 2021 memo by denying knowledge of the criminal investigation as it was unfolding in November 2020 in an attempt to avoid her responsibility to immediately terminate or transfer such an investigation.”
Shortly after Hauth’s confidential memo to the board was sent on Oct. 12, 2021, she was contacted by Hughes.
He wanted her to amend the dates and have his emails he sent to her attached to the memo to the board.
“As a result, Chief Hauth submitted another Confidencial Memo dated October 18, 2021 providing “additional information” to her October 12, 2021 memo,” the OCPC statement said.
“Chief Hauth deceived or attempted to deceive the Board in her October 18, 2021 memo by denying knowledge of the criminal investigation as it was unfolding in November 2020 in an attempt to avoid her responsibility to immediately terminate or transfer such an investigation.
“It was only when confronted by DC Hughes’ November 2020 emails that she submitted her October 18, 2021 amending her October 12th memo. Even then it falsely deflected her knowledge of the initiation of the criminal investigation against Chair Morriseau to DC Hughes.”
‘I remain cautiously optimistic’
In October of 2021, Morriseau filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.
The complaint said Morriseau has “experienced mental distress and continuous unjustified attacks on her professional reputation” by senior members of the Thunder Bay police service and members of the police service board.
It calls for the removal of the chief of police, the deputy chief of police, and the service’s legal counsel. It also calls for the removal of then board chair and city councillor Kristen Oliver and police board secretary, John Hannam, a former clerk with the City of Thunder Bay.
Now that the OCPC has acted, Morriseau said the work on the police board must push ahead.
“I will remain cautiously optimistic and humble,” she said in the Facebook post. “As this entire painfully gruelling experience has taught me that some people will stop at nothing. United we stand. Divided we fall.
“We still have a lot of work to do and need to focus our efforts there.”
The allegations haven’t been tested at a hearing and a date has not been set.
According to the OCPC, “Under the Police Services Act, disciplinary hearings are conducted by the police services. The outcome of the hearing is decided by a hearing officer. A hearing officer is designated by the chief of police or Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner, who is also responsible for discipline.
“At a disciplinary hearing, the hearing officer must decide whether the allegations of misconduct have been proven on clear and convincing evidence.”
Collin Woods, the president of the Thunder Bay police association – the union that represents Thunder Bay police officers — said the allegations contained in the OCPC Notice of Particulars are “quite shocking” to him.
The association represents roughly 325 members of the police service.
Woods said the allegations levelled against the chief are “troubling to say the least.”
Woods believes if one of the association’s members had been served by the OCPC, they would have been suspended, immediately.
His personal view is that Hauth should be suspended, a decision that will be up to the Thunder Bay police services board. The board will meet on Tuesday.
The OCPC appointed an administrator to oversee the board in April. That decision led to the resignation of many of the board members.
Woods said a new chief of police could provide a reset for the police service and the whole city. He said whoever the next chief is, will have a hard job.
Read the OCPC Notice of Particulars here: