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Police chief, board chair address charges against former members

Thunder Bay Police Service chief Darcy Fleury and police services board chair Karen Machado held a joint media conference on Monday to address recent charges against former members of the service, including chief Sylvie Hauth.

THUNDER BAY - Following news of charges against former members of the Thunder Bay Police Service, including the former chief of police, the current leadership said they are continuing to move forward to rebuild trust within the community and within the service, but some in attendance who have filed human rights complaints say that is not enough.

Thunder Bay Police Service Chief Darcy Fleury and Police Services Board chair Karen Machado held a joint media conference on Monday to address the recent charges against former chief of police Sylvie Hauth and former in-house lawyer Holly Walbourne.

Hauth was charged last Friday by the Ontario Provincial Police with one count of obstructing a public or peace officer, one count of breach of trust, and two counts of obstruction of justice.

Walbourne was charged earlier in the week as part of the same investigation with obstructing a public or peace officer, breach of trust, and three counts of obstruction of justice.

The OPP’s investigation was launched in 2021 at the request of the Ministry of the Attorney General over allegations of misconducted by members of the Thunder Bay Police Service.

Staff Sgt. Michael Dimini was also charged late last year with one count of obstruction of justice, two counts of assault, and one count of breach of trust.

It is alleged that Hauth and Walbourne gave misleading or false statements to the Thunder Bay Police Services Board in October 2021.

“The criminal allegations brought forward by OPP are deeply disturbing. There is a legal and ethical expectation that information provided by Thunder Bay Police Service is truthful and factual, both to the board and the community,” Machado said.

“It is critical for our community to have faith in this system that provides oversight to the Thunder Bay Police Service.”

Fleury added that leading up to the investigation and following it has been a challenging time for the police service and he acknowledged there has been an erosion of trust within the community.

“As a police service dedicated to learning from the past and in order to make the most of the future, the Thunder Bay Police Service welcomed and fully cooperated with this investigation,” Fleury said.

“Since joining the team last May, I have witnessed resilience and commitment at every level of the service. I am proud and confident of the overarching team.”

Machado said the board has a vision of modernizing the Thunder Bay Police Service, which began with the hiring of Fleury in the role of chief of police last year, as well as the implementation of a governance and labour relation committee on the board and new policies for the police service.

“We are here today to send a strong message that the alleged incidents of the past do not reflect the work being done today,” she said. “We will not hesitate to bring in outside counsel or law enforcement to ensure we execute our duties and roles to the highest standards.”

According to Fleury, the police service has also asked outside agencies to review the policies that are in place to ensure the language reflects the needs of the community.

And while the police service has been working to rebuild eroding trust within the community, Fleury was asked how trust within the service itself has been impacted by the charges against former high-ranking members.

“We are talking about cases that happened before we were here,” Fleury said.

“I can’t ask anyone to have trust, you have to show it. We have to continue down that path and be transparent. We are going to continue that. As we go forward, some of the cases that are remaining, we will have those conversations.”

When asked why it took a recommendation by the Ministry of the Attorney General to the OPP to launch an investigation over allegations of misconduct instead of any internal action at the time, Fleury repeated that this happened before his time but it is something the police service takes very seriously.

“We have already on several occasions . . . initiated internal investigations on officers in the service and moving forward on that,” he said.

Machado added that the former police services board did bring complainants to the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, but at that point, Chantelle Bryson, a lawyer representing members who have filed numerous human rights complainants against the Thunder Bay Police Service, stood up and said that was not true.

“I am legal counsel for severely damaged individuals who brought these complaints forward to the chief, the board, and OCPC in 2021,” Bryson said.

“They are still defending them today and the taxpayers of Thunder Bay are paying for it. The OPP are clear it is not done. There are still other accused in the service at a senior level. Shame on all of you.”

The Thunder Bay Police Services Board issued a statement following the media conference regarding Bryson's statement. 

"The Board forwarded concerns raised by former Board member Georjann Morriseau to OCPC in the spring of 2021, asking them to investigate," the statement reads. "Substantive information was shared with OCPC to assist them, leading to their subsequent investigation."

One of the individuals who has filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal said Fleury and Machado should apologize for past wrongs.

“All we want is an apology,” she said.

When asked if he would apologize, Fleury said he is not sure what he would be apologizing for.

“We need to go through these processes to see what the outcomes are,” he said. “We can’t just change overnight what has occurred in the past. We have to go through these processes.”

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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