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Former Thunder Bay police chief Sylvie Hauth.David Jackson/The Globe and Mail

Former Thunder Bay police chief Sylvie Hauth was arrested and charged by provincial police on Friday, in connection with a continuing criminal investigation of members of the troubled service.

Ms. Hauth, 57, was charged in Ottawa with two counts of obstruction of justice and one count each of obstructing a public or peace officer and breach of trust by a public officer, the Ontario Provincial Police said Friday in a news release. She is the third member of the Thunder Bay Police Service to be charged in the OPP investigation, which began in late 2021.

Scott Hutchison, a lawyer who is representing Ms. Hauth, called the decision to charge his client “disappointing and regrettable.”

“Chief Hauth is confident that the people of Thunder Bay will not rush to any judgement, and will respect the presumption of innocence,” he said in a statement. “She looks forward to her trial where she will present her defence. She is confident she will prevail.”

The provincial police did not detail the reasons for the charges on Friday, but Ms. Hauth, who served as chief for six years until her retirement early last year, has been at the centre of previous complaints against the Thunder Bay service’s upper ranks.

The force has been beset for years by internal feuding, allegations of misconduct and dismal relations with area Indigenous residents.

In 2020, two veteran officers filed complaints to their superiors alleging that another officer, Staff Sergeant Mike Dimini, had committed various improper acts related to a service call in November that year, including illegal entry, wrongful arrest and falsifying a report.

In subsequent complaints to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, the veteran officers said they had faced retaliation from Ms. Hauth, and also from Holly Walbourne, who was then the force’s in-house legal counsel.

In 2021, Georjann Morriseau, who was then chair of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, filed a human-rights complaint against the chief and board, alleging that she had been improperly investigated for misconduct.

The Ontario Civilian Police Commission launched an investigation, and said in 2022 that it had largely substantiated that allegation. By this time, the commission had placed the force and its board under the control of an outside administrator.

Thunder Bay police ‘on brink of collapse,’ board member says

The commission ultimately announced charges of deceit and discreditable conduct against Ms. Hauth, but she retired weeks before a hearing on those allegations was scheduled to take place. Because the charges had been laid under Ontario’s Police Services Act, and not under the Criminal Code, her departure meant the case could not proceed.

The OPP have said they received a request from the province’s Ministry of the Attorney General to investigate possible criminal misconduct within the Thunder Bay force in December, 2021.

Late last year, the provincial police charged Mr. Dimini, the staff sergeant, with two counts of assault, one count of breach of trust and one count of obstructing justice related to incidents in 2014, 2016 and 2020. He was suspended with pay.

Earlier this week, the OPP charged Ms. Walbourne, the former in-house counsel, with three counts of obstructing justice, one count of obstructing a public or peace officer, and one count of breach of trust by a public officer.

She is accused of lying to and deceiving Thunder Bay police board members, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission and the Toronto Police Service between October, 2021, and November, 2022. She resigned from the service in March, 2023, but continued to serve on retainer.

Ms. Walbourne was retained by the Waterloo Regional Police Service in May, 2023, for specialized legal services. Cherri Greeno, the Waterloo force’s director of corporate affairs, said in an e-mail on Friday that Waterloo has ended the contract as a result of the charges.

Darcy Fleury, who replaced Ms. Hauth as police chief in Thunder Bay, said in a statement that the service welcomed and fully co-operated with the criminal investigation. He called the probe another step toward resolution “and our ability to wholly move forward as a police service.”

“It is my hope that community members will not allow the results of this investigation to overshadow the ongoing dedication and quality service provided by our TBPS,” he added.

The Thunder Bay Police Services Board released a statement on Friday praising the service for its dedication during the investigation.

“Board members remain seized with our mandate and collective responsibility to ensure the Thunder Bay Police Service is governed effectively so the city can have confidence in its police service,” the statement said.

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