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First Nations leaders to speak about ‘systemic failures’ within Thunder Bay police

Leaders from Nishnawbi Aski Nation are holding a news conference in Toronto on Monday morning to address their concerns with the Thunder Bay Police Service, after the OPP this month laid multiple charges against the former police chief and others linked to the force.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation leaders, MPP to address media in Toronto after OPP lays charges against ex-police chief

First Nations leaders address issues with Thunder Bay Police Service

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NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa and leaders of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation speak out about longstanding issues with the Thunder Bay Police Service as the force faces renewed scrutiny after the Ontario Provincial Police charged current and former members.

First Nations leaders from northwestern Ontario are holding a news conference in Toronto on Monday morning to address their concerns with the Thunder Bay Police Service, after the OPP this month laid multiple charges against the former police chief and others linked to the force.

Leaders from Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) will be joined by Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa to discuss "the Thunder Bay Police Service's long-standing misconduct and systemic failures," according to a news release issued Friday.

Mamakwa, who is from Kingfisher Lake First Nation, is expected to speak with NAN Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and other leaders in the organization at 9 a.m. Monday. They are expected to be joined by "families who have suffered the consequences of the police service's negligence."

NAN represents 49 First Nations in Treaty 9 and Treaty 5 in northern Ontario, a land mass covering two-thirds of the province.

Numerous reports and expert panels have documented the Thunder Bay Police Service's failures to serve Indigenous people in the city, and a 2018 report found systemic racism within the force.

The police service is under renewed scrutiny after Ontario Provincial Police laid multiple obstruction and breach of trust charges against former police chief Sylvie Hauth and ex-Thunder Bay police lawyer Holly Walbourne earlier this month. In December, OPP also charged Staff Sgt. Michael Dimini with assault, breach of trust and obstruction of justice.

WATCH | Thunder Bay Police chief promises reform, but skepticism remains:

Thunder Bay police chief vows to rebuild public trust

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The Thunder Bay Police Service vowed to rebuild public trust after charges were filed against a former chief, but some community members and Indigenous leaders say they’re skeptical that the force can reform.

In response, current police Chief Darcy Fleury said he and the new oversight board are working to move the service forward from the challenges it inherited from previous leadership.

However, Fiddler, Mamakwa and NAN Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum said they were disappointed with the response.

"For years we have expressed serious concerns with the Thunder Bay Police Service and its ability to conduct competent death investigations, even to the point where we had to make a call for the disbandment of the service," Fiddler and Achneepineskum said in a statement issued last week.

"Those calls have been ignored, and we are faced with a situation where families who have lost loved ones are left with no recourse because they do not trust the work of the TBPS.

"There is absolutely no trust whatsoever in the TBPS or its ability to conduct competent investigations into the deaths of Indigenous Peoples."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alex Brockman is the executive producer with CBC Thunder Bay. He's worked across Canada in a number of roles for CBC News.

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