Thunder Bay Police Service on the ‘brink of collapse’ says board member

A member of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board (TBPSB), who is also a former chief of the nearby First Nation, says the department is on “the brink of collapse” due to leadership issues.

Georjann Morriseau says her time on the Thunder Bay Police Services Board (TBPSB) has been “appalling and disheartening.”

On Jan. 17, Morriseau released an open letter alleging that TBPSB leadership “employs tactics of harassment and discrimination, particularly targeting members of the service who challenge status quo and report varying degrees of misconduct.”

The letter also says the TBPSB failed to put in an effective governance structure despite two independent reports stating there was a leadership problem.

Morriseau, the former chief of Fort William First Nation joined the board in 2019 but says clear change has not come.

She discussed the letter in a press conference explaining why she believes there is a problem.

“They are on the brink of collapse because there’s no systemic remedies, there’s no systemic reform and change or anything there to empower the members of the service to be their best and do their best, which then has a significant impact out in the city, out in our community, it impacts the service delivery,” Morriseau said.

Morriseau filed a human rights tribunal complaint in October 2021 against members of the TBPSB, the chief of police and senior management.

“My story today is not so much to, it’s not just about me, but it’s to demonstrate and show the public that this is what the leadership did to me and I’m on the board. My story reflects that of many others within the service and they can’t speak up, they can’t, it’s hard, it’s difficult, they’re disempowered right, especially the ones who come forward,” Morriseau said

Two separate reports have been done about the TBPSB and the TBPS, one by the office of the independent police review director and another by Sen. Murray Sinclair.

Both found that systemic racism exists within the force.

“My finding that investigations were affected by racial discrimination does not represent a determination that all TBPS officers engaged in intentional racism. However, overall I find systemic racism exists in TBPS at an institutional level,” said Gerry McNeilly, independent police review director in the report.

“The Board has failed to recognize and address the clear and indisputable pattern of violence and systemic racism against Indigenous people in Thunder Bay. Moreover, the Board’s failure to act on these issues in the face of overwhelming documentary and media exposure is indicative of willful blindness,” said Sen. Murray Sinclair in the report.

The TBPSB and Thunder Bay police chief deny there are any problems.

“The board, together with the Thunder Bay Police Service, is working to provide the policing that our communities expect and deserve. In addition, we’d like to add that the board (with the exception of member Morriseau) is united, working well, and far from ‘collapse,’” said TBPSB chair Kristen Oliver in a statement.

“I would like to echo the words of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board. We are working together to provide a high level of policing, which the community has come to expect,” said Sylvie Hauth, chief of police.

Other members of  the TBPS have also filed human rights complaints, which lawyer Chantelle Bryson says is unprecedented.

“It is extraordinary after 20 years of practice to see any member of a police force publicly file against its leadership and board. And it is beyond extraordinary to have 11 file against the police leadership and the board, as well as numerous others wishing to file, but precluded from doing so due to a time limitation,” Bryson said at the press conference.

She hopes the human rights complaints can lead to a positive change.

“Every single complainant, as well as the six I turned away, only and foremost wants appropriate systemic remedies to ensure a safe and healthy workplace for all officers so that officers can do their job and also be well when they go home to their families,” she said.

“And, I think, in addition for member Morriseau, and I’ve known and worked with member Morriseau for a very long time, and she is always squarely focused on transparency and accountability in the public realm.”

During the press conference in Thunder Bay, a user named TBay Police was overheard while unmuted, discussing putting a fake name to represent their Zoom account. It’s not clear if they were members of the TBPS.

APTN reached out to TBPS for clarification but has yet to hear back.

Also, towards the end of the press conference, an unknown source took over the feed and started playing adult videos. The conference was then shut down.

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