THUNDER BAY – Thunder Bay’s embattled police department will face an independent investigation into its leadership, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) confirmed Friday.
The announcement answers a request from Ontario’s Solicitor General, Sylvia Jones, who called on the OCPC last month to investigate police leadership including chief Sylvie Hauth and deputy chief Ryan Hughes, who has since been suspended.
Sean Weir, executive chair of Tribunals Ontario, said the commission's preliminary review of the situation had left him satisfied a thorough investigation is required.
The OCPC “has concerns about the Thunder Bay Police Service’s management of discipline in the police service, the conduct of criminal investigations by its officers, and the ability of senior leadership to administer the day-to-day operations of the police service in good faith and in compliance with the Police Services Act," according to a statement.
The investigation will centre around allegations of misconduct by Hauth and Hughes, as well as legal counsel Holly Walbourne, according to terms of reference provided by the OCPC.
It will consider allegations Hughes initiated a criminal investigation into Thunder Bay Police Services Board member Georjann Morriseau without sufficient grounds, and directed a subordinate to obtain a production order for information from her cell phone on "misleading grounds."
It will also review allegations that Hauth failed to take appropriate steps to address Hughes' actions, provided "misinformation" to the police services board about the investigation into Morriseau, and failed to take appropriate steps to address other allegations of misconduct by members of the TBPS.
It will look into allegations that Hauth, Hughes, and Walbourne "colluded in their responses to recent inquiries" from the OCPC.
Lastly, the investigation will inquire into TBPS administration more broadly, including its relationship with the police services board.
If proven, the allegations would constitute "serious misconduct" and, in Hauth's case, a failure to uphold her duties under the Police Services Act, the OCPC noted.
The police services board itself had requested an investigation of Hauth, Hughes, and Walbourne in April of 2021, according to the investigation's terms of reference.
In a statement, the board said it welcomed the investigation.
"We will await the outcome of the investigation and the board will act accordingly based on OCPC findings," said chair Kristen Oliver. "As the investigation is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further."
Jones has stated in a letter reviewed by TBNewswatch that her call for an OCPC investigation was based on concerns raised in numerous applications filed with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in recent months by Morriseau, current and former officers, and civilian staff.
A spokesperson for the OCPC had said the agency couldn’t comment on a potential investigation as recently as Thursday.
This article has been updated with comment from the Thunder Bay Police Services Board.