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OIPRD Releases Thunder Bay Police Service Systemic Review Report

12/12/2018, by: OIPRD Admin

THUNDER BAY – The Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) today released its systemic review report on the relationship between the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) and Indigenous communities, finding significant deficiencies in sudden death investigations involving Indigenous people that are due, in part, to racial stereotyping.

The report also addresses systemic racism within the service more generally, and finds systemic racism exists at an institutional level.

“The serious inadequacies and premature conclusions in TBPS investigations of Indigenous missing persons and sudden deaths have strained what was already a deeply troubled relationship. My recommendations provide tools to help TBPS ensure that its investigations are thorough, effective and non-discriminatory. My recommendations also provide TBPS with a path forward to improve its relationship with Indigenous people.”
— Gerry McNeilly, Independent Police Review Director

Broken Trust: Indigenous People and the Thunder Bay Police Service, is the culmination of an extensive review and analysis of 37 TBPS investigations, dozens of interviews with former and current TBPS members, First Nations Police Services, Ontario’s Chief Coroner and Chief Forensic Pathologist, and more than 80 meetings with Indigenous and non-Indigenous community and service organizations, individuals and Indigenous leaders. The report makes 44 recommendations, including:

  • The inadequacy of the TBPS sudden death investigations the OIPRD reviewed was so problematic that at least nine of the cases should be reinvestigated.
  • A multi-discipline team should be established to reinvestigate, at a minimum, the deaths of the nine Indigenous people identified. The team should include representatives from TBPS, a First Nations police service, outside police service(s), the Office of the Chief Coroner and the Office of the Chief Forensic Pathologist. The team should also establish a protocol for determining what additional death investigations should be reinvestigated.
  • TBPS should initiate an external peer-review process for sudden death and homicide investigations for at least the next three years.
  • TBPS should focus proactively on actions to eliminate systemic racism, including removing systemic barriers and the root causes of racial inequities in the service.
  • TBPS leadership should publicly and formally acknowledge that racism exists at all levels within the police service and that it will not tolerate racist views or actions. TBPS leadership should engage with Indigenous communities on the forum for and content of these acknowledgements. This would be an important step in TBPS advancing reconciliation with Indigenous people.
  • The Thunder Bay Police Services Board should publicly and formally acknowledge racism exists within TBPS and take a leadership role in repairing the relationship between TBPS and Indigenous communities.
  • TBPS leadership should create a permanent advisory group involving the police chief and Indigenous leadership.
  • The Office of the Chief Coroner, Ontario’s Chief Forensic Pathologist, the Regional Coroner and TBPS should implement the Thunder Bay Death Investigations Framework on a priority basis. The framework clarifies roles and responsibilities, improves communication and increases information sharing to ensure objective, high quality death investigations.

“TBPS has begun initiatives to improve investigations and that gives me cause for hope. I will monitor and report to the public the extent to which my recommendations are implemented. The community is entitled to no less. That represents my commitment to Indigenous people, TBPS and the broader community it is responsible for serving.”
— Gerry McNeilly, Independent Police Review Director


  • The OIPRD is an independent arm’s length agency of the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.
  • The OIPRD receives, manages and oversees public complaints about Ontario’s municipal, regional and provincial police.
  • The Police Services Act gives the Independent Police Review Director the power to conduct systemic reviews. The purpose of a systemic review is not to find individual misconduct, but to identify and address larger issues of systemic importance and make recommendations to improve policing.