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OIPRD reinvestigation report delayed due to COVID-19

The reinvestigations were expected to be concluded by the end of the summer but a final report will now be submitted by the end of the year.
Shania Bob Reinvestigation
In January, the investigative team is on the scene of a Victoria Avenue East building for the re-investigation into the circumstances surrounding the 2014 death of Shania Bob. (File).

THUNDER BAY - The reinvestigation into nine sudden deaths involving Indigenous people in the city of Thunder Bay continues, though a report that was expected to be delivered this fall has been delayed to the end of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Initially the team was targeting having the reinvestigation completed by the end of summer with the report to follow early fall,” said reinvestigation case manager, Ken Leppert, in a statement.

“However, the current pandemic has created some challenges with in-person interviews and travel that has resulted in some delays, as has the volume of information that needs to be carefully considered. We are now anticipating having the investigations completed late fall with the report submitted by the end of 2020.”

In the Office of the Independent Police Review Director’s 2018 report, Broken Trust: Indigenous People and the Thunder Bay Police Service, former director Gerry McNeilly called for nine sudden deaths involving Indigenous people be reinvestigated.

McNeilly said the initial investigations by the Thunder Bay Police Service were deficient and inadequate and the cases should be reopened.

The nine cases include Christine Gliddy, Shania Bob, Marie Spence, Aaron Loon, Sarah Moonias, as well as four cases involved in the Seven Youth Inquest – Jethro Anderson, Curran Strang, Kyle Morrisseau, and Jordan Wabasse.

Last fall, the terms of reference were released for the reinvestigations, as well as the three-tier framework in June of 2019, which includes an executive governance committee, an investigative resource committee, and a blended investigative team.

According to Leppert, the blended investigative team has expanded and now “includes three investigators from the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS), one investigator from the Nishnawbe-Aski Police Service, one investigator from the Anishinabek Police Service, one analyst from Ontario Forensic Pathology Service and several members to assist with Major Case Management from the Ontario Provincial Police.”

A victim liaison officer is also working with Nishnawbe Aski Legal Services Victim Witness program to provide support to families.

Over the past several months the blended investigative team has been gathering and reviewing reports from the Ontario Provincial Police, the Thunder Bay Police Service, and the Office of the Chief Coroner involving the nine deaths.

It has also been meeting with families and witnesses, reexamining scenes where the deaths took place, and reviewing transcripts from the Seven Youth Inquest.

“The team remains committed to the re-investigations and will continue to seek the truth while following the evidence as the re-investigations progress,” Leppert said.

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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