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A hearing date in February has been set for Thunder Bay’s suspended police chief, Sylvie Hauth, into Police Services Act charges against her for discreditable conduct and deceit.David Jackson/The Globe and Mail

The Ontario Civilian Police Commission has completed its investigation into Thunder Bay’s suspended police chief, and has set a date for a hearing into Police Services Act charges against her for discreditable conduct and deceit.

On Friday, the OCPC announced that the allegations against police chief Sylvie Hauth had been “largely substantiated,” and that another set of allegations, against deputy chief Ryan Hughes, were unsubstantiated. Both were investigated in connection with an improper criminal investigation of Georjann Morriseau, a former chair of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board who continues to serve on it as a member.

The commission has tentatively scheduled the start of a five-day hearing into the charges against Ms. Hauth for Feb. 6, 2023.

The proceeding will be another jolt for a force that has already been badly rattled. Over the past few years, the Thunder Bay Police Service has faced many human rights complaints, misconduct allegations and external investigations, some focused on its treatment of the city’s large Indigenous community.

Ms. Morriseau, who is Indigenous, filed human rights complaints against Ms. Hauth, Mr. Hughes, police service lawyer Holly Walbourne and the board this past November, alleging discrimination and harassment.

In April, the OCPC appointed an administrator, lawyer Malcolm Mercer, to lead the service out of crisis by overseeing the police board and making decisions on its behalf. He suspended Ms. Hauth in June after learning of the commission’s charges against her. Days earlier, Ms. Hauth had announced that she would retire in June 2023.

The police board suspended Mr. Hughes in January, pending an external investigation into what the board has described only as an internal human resources matter.

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The board’s secretary, John Hannam, told The Globe and Mail on Friday that Mr. Hughes’ suspension remains in effect, and that the board would not comment on the OCPC’s findings. The commission’s office at Tribunals Ontario said in a statement that it continues to investigate the Thunder Bay service, but it declined further comment.

Ms. Morriseau first alleged that she had been the target of an improper criminal investigation in 2021. The OCPC announced in February that it was moving ahead with an investigation into the situation after receiving separate requests to do so from the board, Ms. Morriseau and Ontario’s Solicitor General.

The allegations against Mr. Hughes, which the OCPC has determined were unsubstantiated, included that he had initiated a criminal investigation into Ms. Morriseau without sufficient grounds and without the police chief knowing, and that he had directed a production order for the contents of Ms. Morriseau’s cellphone on misleading grounds – again, without the police chief knowing.

The OCPC alleges that Ms. Hauth failed to appropriately address Mr. Hughes’ alleged actions, and also didn’t respond adequately to misconduct by other members of the police service. She is also accused of providing the police board with misinformation regarding the investigation of Ms. Morriseau. These allegations have not been proven. They will be the subject of the commission’s hearing into Ms. Hauth’s conduct.

The OCPC also investigated whether Ms. Hauth, Mr. Hughes and Ms. Walbourne colluded in their responses to the commission’s inquiries during a preliminary review of the allegations. But the commission said Friday that there was no evidence to substantiate that claim.

In her human rights complaint last year, Ms. Morriseau said she had been approached by an off-duty officer in August, 2020, when she was still board chair. The officer, she said, told her about rumours that another officer was involved in a leak of confidential police information to the administrator of a social media page, who was posting information about courthouse proceedings and police investigations.

Ms. Morriseau said she told the deputy chief, Mr. Hughes, about the encounter. But the service had already started investigating the leak months before, and had already cleared the officer whose name was mentioned to Ms. Morriseau.

The police service then opened an internal misconduct investigation into the identity of the officer who had spoken with Ms. Morriseau. According to the OCPC’s findings, the service opened its criminal investigation into Ms. Morriseau after being made aware that she had told the second officer he was suspected of being the source of the leak.

Ms. Hauth eventually transferred the Morriseau investigation to the Ontario Provincial Police, to avoid the conflict of interest inherent in a police service investigating its own board member. But before she made the transfer, the OCPC alleges, she made false and misleading statements about the investigation in two confidential memos to the police board.

In addition to Ms. Morriseau, several police officers have filed human rights complaints against Ms. Hauth, Ms. Walbourne and the board for discrimination and harassment in unrelated incidents.

The OCPC also announced Friday that Mr. Mercer’s initial six-month term as administrator has been extended to March, 2023. The commission cited continuing concerns over the state of the police board.

Mr. Mercer’s interim report in August to the OCPC said more work needed to be done to ensure a new board and new police chief are in a position to make necessary changes.

Another interim report by an expert panel of policing and governance leaders assembled by the police board last spring identified criteria for the service’s next police chief. It said preference should be given to an Indigenous candidate. The group also suggested an expanded board, with more First Nations representation.