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Canada Thunder Bay police announce 16 people to review probes of nine Indigenous deaths

Celina Reitberger, the first Indigenous Chair on the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, holds a talking feather at an event which was held to formally apologize for the OIPRD's report which found systemic racism at an institutional level within the TBPS.

David Jackson/The Globe and Mail

Thunder Bay Police Service announced Wednesday the names of legal experts, outside investigators and First Nations leaders who will review flawed investigations into the deaths of nine Indigenous people.

The 16 appointments are part of a response to a 2018 report, conducted by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD), a civilian oversight agency, released amid allegations of racism in the TNPS. The report described nine sudden-death investigations conducted by police in Thunder Bay as “problematic,” saying they needed to be looked at again.

In June, the TBPS said a three-tiered team made up of local First Nations leaders and outside investigators would be appointed to review the deaths and the investigations that followed.

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Now that the reviewers have been named, the teams can get to work in the coming weeks, says Chris Adams, communications director for the TBPS.

Among the team overseeing the entire process are Thunder Bay Police Chief Sylvie Hauth and Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. They’re joined by Justice Stephen Goudge, Dirk Huyer, chief coroner of Ontario, and Michael Pollanen, chief forensic pathologist and deputy chief coroner of Ontario.

The second team, called the investigative resource committee, will review the response to the deaths and decide if additional resources need to be called upon, Mr. Adams said. It is made up of legal professionals including Kimberly Murray, former executive director of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Lastly, an investigative team will look directly into the deaths. It’s made up of a retired Ontario Provincial Police detective superintendent, a Nishnawbe Aski Police Service detective constable and five Thunder Bay police officers who were not involved in the initial death investigations.

The nine deaths to be reviewed are those of: Christine Gliddy, Shania Bob, Marie Spence, Aaron Loon, Sarah Moonias, Jethro Anderson, Curran Strang, Kyle Morrisseau and Jordan Wabasse.

Celina Reitberger, chair of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, the group that oversees the municipal police, said she thinks the members of the review team were chosen well and respond to the needs of the community.

“I’m anxious for them to get going so people who care about these things can get some answers,” she said, adding she’s optimistic their work will help the communities heal.

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The OIPRD’s report, titled Broken Trust, Indigenous Peoples and the Thunder Bay Police Service, was released one month after another scathing report by Senator Murray Sinclair found a deep disconnect between the Indigenous community in Thunder Bay and its police force.

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