THUNDER BAY – The former head of the body overseeing the Thunder Bay Police Service says it’s "on the brink of collapse” over alleged leadership failures she has outlined in a bombshell open letter.
Georjann Morriseau, a current member and former chair of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, notably claimed police leadership has overseen “improper investigations” meant to intimidate staff who "challenge [the] status quo and report varying degrees of misconduct, some of which is potentially criminal."
In a statement issued Monday, she promised to discuss the allegations, including details of her own human rights complaint against police leadership, in a media conference later this week. She vowed to speak up despite what she called efforts to “silence” her.
Morriseau added she'll seek a meeting with Thunder Bay's city council "to report to them personally my experiences on the board as a city-appointed TBPSB member."
She also appealed to Ontario's attorney general and solicitor general to "do their due diligence in regards to the information that has already been forwarded to them and that they’ve so far ignored."
The police services board addressed the letter in a statement issued late Monday.
"The Board (with the exception of member Morriseau) is united, working well, and far from 'collapse,'" said board chair and city councillor Kristen Oliver.
The board reiterated it will not address specific allegations included in multiple complaints filed against police leadership with the Ontario Human Rights Commission by police officers and others, including Morriseau.
The former Fort William First Nation chief joined the police services board in 2019, expressing optimism she could help move the service forward after investigations concluding it was beset by poor governance, flawed death investigations, and a culture of systemic racism against Indigenous people.
"It is clear now, after having served as chair of the board for 12 months, and then serving as a city-appointed member... that the current leadership is not serious about change and in fact have no interest in improving the culture of the Thunder Bay Police Service," she wrote in her letter.
The force has failed to address governance problems flagged in reports by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) and Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC), she said.
The police services board said an update on work to meet the OIPRD recommendations would be presented at a board meeting Tuesday.
"Regular updates are provided on progress made on this and other files mentioned in Ms. Morriseau's letter – as we work through implementing recommendations and taking other required steps," Oliver said.
Morriseau's letter also pointed to an internal survey showing dissatisfaction among rank and file officers.
The attention on the police force comes as it seeks a commitment for a $56 million new headquarters in the city's 2022 budget, along with a significant budget increase.
"In advance of the upcoming budget, it is especially critical that the public and the city council are adequately informed about the state of the police service and the severe lack of oversight," Morriseau wrote.
It was revealed in October that Morriseau had filed a human rights complaint against members of the police services board and police leadership, alleging harassment and discrimination.
She's one of eight people to file human rights complaints against police leadership in recent months, represented by local lawyer Chantelle Bryson.
Two of the complaints are now in process before the province's human rights tribunal, Morriseau said.
TBNewswatch has reached out to the Thunder Bay Police Service and Mayor Bill Mauro, who also sits on the police services board, for comment.
The full text of Morriseau’s letter is included below.
This article has been updated to include comment from the Thunder Bay Police Services Board.
Georjann Morriseau's open letter
To The Citizens of Thunder Bay and Our Valued Treaty Partners,
I’m writing today to make my first public statement in regards to my formal HRTO complaint against the members of the Thunder Bay Police Services board, the Chief of Police at the Thunder Bay Police Service as well as senior management there. Many of you may have read the article in the Globe and Mail (October 25, 2021) that generally outlined the story and the complaints. Since this story was shared, more details have come to light and I’m releasing this statement today to speak on a few critical issues that are in the public interest.
I feel it is necessary to be very clear and concise here - serving on the TBPS Board has always been about answering the call for change and contributing to the greater good of the TBPS and the community in Thunder Bay at large. This was my intention in accepting my appointment by Thunder Bay city council to the TBPS board in February 2019.
I believed that I could positively contribute to helping change the culture on the board and help to create the environment for positive change within the service. It is clear now, after having served as Chair of the board for 12 months, and then serving as a city appointed member, based on what I’ve witnessed and experienced is nothing short of appalling and disheartening. It is clear that the current leadership is not serious about change and in fact have no interest in improving the culture of the Thunder Bay Police Service.
I regret to inform the public that despite my many efforts to work collaboratively with the members of the TBPSB and The Chief of Police it is my belief we are at an impasse, as I refuse to breach my public oath and fiduciary duties. The public needs to know that the TBPSB and TBPS administration has brought the Thunder Bay Police Service to the brink of collapse. The following items are a few particularly troubling issues that highlight the critical state of the TBPS directly as a result of actions and inaction by the TBPSB, Chief of Police and administration.
In advance of the upcoming budget, it is especially critical that the public and the City Council are adequately informed about the state of the police service and the severe lack of oversight. It is in the public interest to know that the TBPSB has failed to put in place an effective governance structure to properly govern despite the community calls for action set out in the OCPC (Sinclair report), OIPRD Broken Trust report (McNeilly report) and recommendations. This is an OCPC and OIPRD report response failure.
It is in the public interest to know that the TBPSB has failed to put in place the appropriate checks and balances required to properly, effectively, and efficiently manage public resources and hold itself and the service accountable. This is a TBPSB failure to uphold its fiduciary duty and therefore a breach of public trust. It is in the public interest to know that rather than allocate resources and funding appropriately, leadership at TBPS have spent an exorbitant amount of funding and resources on improper investigations. This is a mismanagement of public funds and resources. It also an abuse of power.
It is in the public interest to know there is a growing number of TBPS members of service filing HRTO complaints against TBPS and TBPSB leadership. Currently, there are 8 filed complaints and 2 in process before the tribunal. This is completely unprecedented.
It is in the public interest to know that there is an internal TBPS survey that points to shockingly low moral inside the service directly attributing it to leadership and lack thereof. As leadership of the police service we have failed the members of the service and the community miserably.
It is in the public interest to know the TBPS leadership employs tactics of harassment and discrimination, particularly targeting members of the service who challenge status quo and report varying degrees of misconduct, some of which is potentially criminal.
It is in the public interest to know leadership takes action against both active members of the service and those who are off on medical leave suffering from PTSD and specific mental health issues. These actions are the actions of a morally bankrupt leadership at the police service.
Under the oversight of the TBPSB and under the command of Chief Hauth it is “business as usual”. Despite the fact that I along with many good members of the service have informed them of these critical issues that they intentionally leverage public resources to dismiss and hide. Further and more importantly, the TBPSB and Senior Management operate and make decisions in an impenetrable bubble of absolute authority with an expectation of immunity.
What is spoken about in public forums and displayed through photo ops, media releases and social media by TBPSB and TBPS Senior Management member does not accurately reflect what transpires behind closed doors. Instead, continuing to take active steps to knowingly dismiss and hide the crisis evolving and escalating within the service which directly impacts the community at large on the tax payer’s dime.
The TBPSB has failed to uphold its fiduciary duty and obligation to represent both the public and service’s interests ethically. We must at all times lead by the highest example and uphold the law and operate with the highest standards when directing and holding the Chief of Police accountable. We must must be impartial and unbiased in our decision making. We must act in accordance with applicable laws relative to community safety. When we fail to uphold our public duties individually or collectively, we must be held accountable and be transparent with the outcome. Currently we are operating without ethical leadership and absent of the basic fundamentals of integrity and leadership.
I will continue to uphold my public oath and operate with integrity, honesty, accountability and transparency. I am accountable to the citizens of Thunder Bay and our treaty partners. I am committed to improving the quality of front line service in the community and repairing public trust. I am committed and will continue to work towards systemic change and reform creating an environment that empowers the members of the service and supports them in their capacity to serve our community with pride. necessary systemic change and reform members of the the Thunder Bay Police Service. I do not answer to the Chief of Police and I am an equal voting member of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board. I will continue to provide public comments and updates in the future as required as it is important to me that the public is aware and informed. It is my belief, that the TBPSB members and senior management will continue their attempts to silence me and the officers whom have come forward public.
This is a police service on the brink of collapse at the hands of its board, its leadership and its administration.
I saw the 7 Youth Inquest as a window of opportunity for change inside the city.
I saw the OIPRD’s Broken Trust report and the OCPC report by Murray Sinclair as a chance for change. Listening to the community, listening to officers, listening to members, and listening to myself, it is clear change has not come and change is not here.
Today, I am calling on the office of the Solicitor General and the OCPC to do their due diligence in regards to the information that has already been forwarded to them and that they’ve so far ignored.
Today, I am calling on the office of the Attorney General and the OIPRD to do their due diligence in regards to the information that has already been forwarded to them and that they’ve so far ignored.
Today, I am requesting an in person meeting with the Thunder Bay city council to report to them personally my experiences on the board as a city appointed TBPSB member.
I will be hosting a virtual press conference this Thursday January 20th, 2022 from 10-11am. I will be answering media questions at that time. You can join the meeting at the below provided link: