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TBPSA, Morriseau welcome investigation by OCPC into police leadership

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones has requested the Ontario Civilian Police Commission launch an investigation into the chief, deputy chief, and senior administration at the Thunder Bay Police Service

THUNDER BAY - The president of the Thunder Bay Police Association and Police Services Board member, Georjann Morriseau, welcome an investigation into the leadership at the Thunder Bay Police Service, saying the public has a right to know what is going on within the service.

“I think it needs to happen. The issues have been identified clearly by us, and Ms. Morriseau from the board has spoken up with her issues with the service, including the board,” said Colin Woods, president of the Thunder Bay Police Association. “We will continue to explore all of our legal options we have with regard to how this plays out.”

On Monday, Solicitor General Sylvia Jones requested the Ontario Civilian Police Commission launch an investigation into the leadership of the Thunder Bay Police Service, including chief Sylvie Hauth, deputy chief Ryan Hughes, and senior administration.

In December, Jones received a letter from attorney Chantelle Bryson, who is representing Morriseau’s complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, requesting an OCPC investigation. According to the Police Services Board, Mayor Bill Mauro, who is also a member of the board, also spoke with Jones to request an investigation on Monday.

The request follows 11 complaints being filed with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario from members of the police service, including Morriseau, who alleges discrimination and harassment on the part of police leadership and the board.

“This was all preventable,” Morriseau said. “We are in the situation we are in because the board and the leadership as a whole refused to listen to their membership, which again translates to service delivery on the frontline, which impacts the everyday citizen.”

Morriseau added that the OCPC investigation further proves that there are serious issues with the leadership at the police service.

“It proves the point further with the public that the board and the leadership are clearly disconnected and delusional for that matter, for a lack of better words,” she said. “When I see this letter come out from the Solicitor General, it further proves there is an issue.”

The Thunder Bay Police Association has also expressed concerns regarding leadership at the service, including workplace issues not being addressed and fear of reprisals for speaking up.

Woods used the example of a statement issued by chief Hauth following an op-ed released by the association on the weekend calling for an independent investigation into police leadership.

“That statement, the chief said I had aligned myself with Morriseau. What she fails to remember or recognize, is that statement was from the board of directors of the police association. We are speaking on behalf of the 350-plus members of our association,” Woods said.

“The chief decided to single me out and say the president aligned himself. That is exactly the position we are in, you speak out, and they target you, and that was unprofessional of the chief to do that.”

An internal survey conducted by the association also found that 81 per cent of members felt little to no support from senior management at the service and Woods added that senior members of the association, including retired members, say they have never seen these kinds of problems at the service before.

“It’s like walking on egg shells doing our jobs because members are worried about who they are coming after next, who are they going to be disciplining next,” Woods said. “We need to see those things change. It has become such an unhealthy work environment.”

Woods is echoing a statement made by Morriseau during an online media conference last week where she said she absolutely believes a change of leadership is needed at the Thunder Bay Police Service.   

“I honestly do believe we need a change in leadership,” he said. “In my conversations with the chief, after we went public in October last year and had a meeting a couple days after with the chief, I said I don’t know if you can fix this now.”

Woods said the police association will make a formal request to the OCPC to investigate the leadership at the police service, believing that the members deserve change and the public has a right to know.

“I can say that my members, frontline patrol, in the uniform, the ones doing the drug busts, they are doing their job,” he said.

“The citizens shouldn’t have to worry about that. They are doing their job day in and day out. They are very professional in what they do. They are not letting what is happening inside the building spill out or affect their job or serving the public. But we owe it to the public to let them know what is happening.”

Morriseau added that any investigation into the police service also needs to include the Police Services Board.

“The service doesn’t operate entirely independent,” she said. “The services board has been active in decision-making that has led us to where we are right now.”

Thunder Bay Police Services Board chair Kristen Oliver said the board welcomes the investigation by the OCPC, and that it has already forwarded them several matters for investigation and action dating back more than a year.

“We will cooperate in any possible way we can in these investigations. We take them very seriously and we are looking forward to moving all of this forward,” she said.

“We hope that this doesn’t drag on very long. There is certainly a lot of information that has been provided and we seriously think that it shouldn’t take a long period. We are looking forward to fulsome investigation and the outcome of that should provide the answers that we need.”

Hauth also released a statement Tuesday afternoon, saying she too welcomes the call to have the OCPC conduct a thorough investigation.

“I agree with the Thunder Bay Police Services Board’s position that there are several issues which need a proper examination by the OCPC,” she said.

“The leadership team of the TBPS respects the need for due process and will fully cooperate with the OCPC in any investigation or examination of the administration of policing services. We will respect this process by limiting further comments on this matter.”

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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