Hours after Thunder Bay Police Chief Sylvie Hauth announced she would retire next year, a provincial tribunal revealed that she will face a hearing over three counts of alleged misconduct related to a criminal investigation into a member of the city’s police board.
In a statement to media on Thursday morning, Chief Hauth said she would be retiring from the service next June. Later in the day, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC), a tribunal that oversees policing services in the province, released notice of the hearing, along with the findings of its initial investigation into the Chief.
This is the latest setback for a police service that has spent the past several years caught in a maelstrom of allegations, human rights complaints and external investigations, some focusing on its treatment of Thunder Bay’s large Indigenous community. A 2018 report by retired senator Murray Sinclair concluded that the police board had failed to recognize and address a pattern of violence and racism against Indigenous people in the city.
The probe of Chief Hauth’s conduct concerns a criminal investigation into Georjann Morriseau, who was chair of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board at the time. (She still sits on the board, but not as chair.)
According to the OCPC findings, the Thunder Bay police launched the probe of Ms. Morriseau in November 2020 after they came to suspect her of leaking information about an internal investigation. The following month, Chief Hauth decided to transfer the investigation into Ms. Morriseau to the Ontario Provincial Police, according to the OCPC document. In its findings, the tribunal cites a 2021 memo in which Chief Hauth said she knew “it would not be appropriate for a police service to investigate any of its members or board members.”
Ms. Morriseau lodged a human-rights complaint against Chief Hauth and other members of the police service’s leadership, alleging that she had been discriminated against because she is Indigenous. In January the board suspended Deputy Police Chief Ryan Hughes from the service for reasons that haven’t been disclosed publicly. The OCPC launched its investigation into Chief Hauth in February.
In the OCPC’s notice of the hearing, the tribunal’s chair, Sean Weir, alleges that in two separate October 2021 memos, Chief Hauth “deceived or attempted to deceive the Thunder Bay Police Services Board by willfully or negligently making false, misleading or inaccurate statements” about her knowledge of the investigation into Ms. Morriseau.
A third count of misconduct alleges Chief Hauth acted in a manner “likely to bring discredit upon the reputation of the police force” when she allowed the initial Thunder Bay Police Service investigation into Ms. Morriseau to proceed without immediately transferring it to another service.
The allegations haven’t been proven. They will be the subject of the hearing.
Thunder Bay Police Service director of communications Chris Adams said Chief Hauth had no knowledge that the tribunal had decided to hold a hearing when she made her retirement plans public.
Mr. Adams said the service has no further comment on the misconduct allegations. A date for the hearing has yet to be determined.
The OPP launched a separate criminal investigation into members of the service in February. But the provincial police force hasn’t provided specifics on what the allegations are in that case, or who is accused.
Thunder Bay Police have recently been criticized for other reasons. In March, The Globe and Mail obtained two reports in which investigators determined that the sudden deaths of 15 Indigenous people in Thunder Bay required further investigation. The reports recommended an external review into an additional 25 unsolved cases of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Chief Hauth didn’t address the investigations or other recent concerns related to the police service in her retirement announcement. She said she intends to remain in her role until the end of her contract on June 14, 2023, which she said would provide the service time to find a replacement. Having first served in an interim capacity, Chief Hauth was sworn in as the full-time police chief in November 2018 and will have spent 30 years with the service at the time of her planned retirement.
“In my capacity as chief of police, I have dedicated myself to organizational change within our service, in a collaborative, consistent and transparent way,” Chief Hauth said in the statement.
A discussion about the search for a new chief will be on the board’s agenda Tuesday. Board members will consider a recommendation to hire the executive search firm Odgers-Berndtson to lead the recruitment process. The police service has used the same organization to find its past three police chiefs. The process is expected to be complete by December.
It’s not clear what the board will look like by then. In April, after launching its investigation into the police service’s leadership, the OCPC appointed an administrator, Ontario lawyer Malcolm Mercer, to oversee the board. He currently has the ability to make decisions unilaterally on the board’s behalf, and to preside over all its meetings.
Following Mr. Mercer’s appointment, board chair Kristen Oliver, a Thunder Bay city councillor, and two provincial appointees, Michael Power and Royden Pelletier, resigned. Only Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro and Ms. Morriseau remain on the board.
In a statement, board secretary John Hannam said he expects the board members will participate in the recruitment process, and that Mr. Mercer will accept their input. It is unknown if the board will have more members by the time the new chief is selected, or if Mr. Mercer will remain as the only vote.
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