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Morriseau ‘absolutely’ believes a change in TBPS leadership is needed

Georjann Morriseau held a virtual media conference on Tuesday where she said the Thunder Bay Police Services Board requires more oversight and change is needed in senior levels of the Thunder Bay Police Service administration.
Georjann Morriseau
Georjann Morriseau ( file photograph)

THUNDER BAY - Thunder Bay Police Services Board member and former chair, Georjann Morriseau, said she absolutely believes there needs to be a change in leadership at the Thunder Bay Police Service and that her experiences of what she says has been harassment and discrimination by the board and senior leadership is not unique to her alone.

“My story today, is not just about me,” Morriseau said. “It’s to demonstrate and show the public that this is what the leadership did to me and I am on the board. My story reflects that of many others on the service and they can’t speak out.”

Morriseau and attorney Chantelle Bryson held a virtual news conference on Thursday to address the issues raised in Morriseau’s complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario alleging harassment and discrimination on the part of senior leadership at the Police Service and board, as well as a letter she issued this week saying the Thunder Bay Police Service is on the brink of collapse.

More than 100 people signed on to the media conference, including members of Thunder Bay city council and First Nation leaders.

The media conference was cut short after being hijacked by an individual or individuals sharing pornographic videos and playing music, a practice known as Zoom Bombing that has become common during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario was filed in October 2021 and alleges systemic discrimination by Thunder Bay Police Services chief Sylvie Hauth, deputy chief Ryan Hughes, police lawyer Holly Walbourne, board chair Kristen Oliver, board secretary John Hannam, and the board itself.

Several other members of the Police Service have also filed complaints and Bryson says the total number of complaints now sits at 11. The Thunder Bay Police Association also released an op-ed in October detailing dissatisfaction on the part of its members with police leadership and a lack of resources. 

“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 filed against police leadership and the board as well as numerous others pushing to file but are precluded from doing so because of a time limitation,” Bryson said.

Bryson went on to call it a public crisis and that the vast majority of members with the Thunder Bay Police Association do not feel their concerns, many reflected in formal complaints, have been taken seriously or met with any resolution.

“Many have been targeted with raising their concerns with Police Services Act charges and what they feel are other acts of retaliation,” she said.

“The service held briefings with officers, including complainants and witnesses, stating that their allegations were false and that anyone who spoke of it would be punished with Police Services Act charges.”

Earlier this week, Morriseau released a letter outlining similar concerns and she said the Police Services Board and Police Service administration has brought the Thunder Bay Police Service to the brink of collapse.

“When I say it is on the brink of collapse, it is because the board and leadership are on the brink of collapse because we failed to uphold our duty to the public, we failed to uphold our duty to the service and all the members, and we failed to uphold public trust,” Morriseau said.

She added that the service members are also on the brink of collapse because there is no leadership at the Thunder Bay Police Service and no systemic remedies for change.

“There is nothing there to empower the members of the service to be their best and do their best, which has a significant impact in the city and the service delivery,” she said.

Thunder Bay Police Services Board chair, Kristen Oliver released a statement in response to Morriseau’s letter, saying the board, with the exception of Morriseau, is united and far from collapse.

However, Morriseau said she believes the board requires oversight again, similar to the situation that followed the release of Murray Sinclair’s report on behalf of the Ontario Civilian Police Commission into the board’s conduct and included the appointment of an outside administrator.  

“I believe not only does the Police Services Board require oversight once again by someone other than ourselves, I also believe part of that oversight needs to have structure and accountability tied to it,” she said.

“The last time we had an appointed administrator, it was difficult to operate in that environment but it was also because currently right now there isn’t enough accountability between the board and the proper oversight body.”

When asked about the future of the Thunder Bay Police Service and if the city could see policing taken over by the Ontario Provincial Policy, Bryson said she thinks that is a potential reality.

Bryson added that since March 2021, the Solicitor General’s Office and OCPC are aware of Morriseau’s situation and some of the evolving complaints but have not received any response.

“There has never been a situation driven to this point where officers are risking retaliation, workplace civilians, and board members and filing publicly with a provincial tribunal because they don’t feel they can get a remedy internally or through regular oversight agencies,” she said. “It is absolutely extraordinary.”

The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario is a last hope to bring about system change, Bryson added, but she acknowledged that the process does take time.

TBNewswatch reached out to the Thunder Bay Police Service for comment and a spokesperson said it will take some time to review the content to determine an appropriate response.

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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