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Administrator attends final police services board meeting

Malcolm Mercer, who was appointed administrator of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, attended his final meeting on Tuesday after serving nearly two years in the role.
Police services board administrator Malcolm Mercer speaks at a Thunder Bay city council meeting on Jan. 25, 2023. (File).

THUNDER BAY -- Nearly two years since an administrator was appointed to oversee the Thunder Bay Police Services Board following what the Ontario Civilian Police Commission described as an ‘emergency’ in its oversight, that administrator is no longer overseeing or participating in board matters.

Malcolm Mercer attended his final Thunder Bay Police Services Board meeting on Tuesday.

Mercer was first appointed to the police services board by the OCPC in April 2022, and his tenure was later extended several times over the next two years.

The chair of the OCPC said at the time that an emergency existed within the board based on a public display of fundamentally divergent opinions among members and an administrator was required to ‘restore proper governance.’

Following Mercer’s appointment, the majority of police services board members resigned.

Mercer held sole voting rights on the board for more than a year, with current members of the board regaining the right to vote in July 2023.

Following his final meeting, Mercer said he cannot measure his time on the board based on normal standards of success or failure.

“One of the pieces of advice I had when I took on this role is I would be foolish to declare success because that really understates the importance of the challenges that exist in Thunder Bay. What I consciously would say is there has been progress,” Mercer said.

“What we have achieved, and I think it is valuable and important, we now have Chief Fleury, we have a deputy chief who has returned to service, and we have an operating board that is working hard to do what they are required to do. So progress not success.”

When Mercer first took on the role as administrator, there were numerous investigations underway into the Thunder Bay Police Service and Police Services Board, including by the Ontario Provincial Police, the OCPC, the Hamilton and Toronto Police Services, and numerous human rights complainants.

Former police chief Sylvie Hauth, who has since retired, had also been suspended and the police service was without a deputy chief.

Mercer said he hopes the challenges of the past police services board are not repeated by the current or future boards.

“They were mostly external challenges. Given the number of investigations that took place, there were real stresses and strains within the last board that they in the end were not collectively overcome,” he said.

“I do not say that to fault them. I think they were very difficult challenges. The result of that was they were not able to get important work done following reports from Senator Sinclair and Broken Trust directed at the service. This board has diversity of perspective.”

Current police services board chair Karen Machado said she is grateful for the support and knowledge Mercer brought to the role as administrator.

“He was also instrumental in several of the policies that we have brought forward through his hard work and keeping us focused and giving us advice and recommendations in that regard,” she said. “It has been very successful.”

Mercer added that he believes the police services board’s diversity will be one of its key strengths, which includes various perspectives including that of two Indigenous members.

“They all bring different perspectives that are important for Thunder Bay. What they have to do is work together and not fracture, find common cause, work together to achieve consensus,” he said. “If they fracture, then that’s what the last board did and that creates the risk of another administrator. I am hopeful that doesn’t occur.”

Machado agreed, adding that the board will continue to follow through with the processes already in place to ensure they are moving forward on agenda items.

“If we do struggle, that we can work collaboratively and cohesively to move those items forward,” she said.

“There will be various opinions, so we need to be able to communicate openly and effectively.”

Doug Diaczuk

About the Author: Doug Diaczuk

Doug Diaczuk is a reporter and award-winning author from Thunder Bay. He has a master’s degree in English from Lakehead University
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