"I find systemic racism exists in TBPS at an institutional level."
December 14, 2018 2:45 PM   Subscribe

Ontario's independent police watchdog says systemic racism exists throughout the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS). Its report, Broken Trust: Indigenous People and the Thunder Bay Police Service (pdf), concludes that the investigations into the deaths of Jethro Anderson, 15, Curran Strang, 18, “C.D.,” 18, Marie Lynette Spence, 30, Christina Gliddy, 28, Reggie Bushie, 15, Kyle Morrisseau, 17, Jordan Wabasse, 15, and “I.J,” 57, were grossly inadequate and should be reopened. Thunder Bay, with a population of just over 100,000 people, accounted for one-third of the total reported anti-Indigenous hate crimes in Canada in 2015.

Thunder Bay also has the highest number of reported hates crimes (on a per capita basis) in Canada. That "'appalling' hate crime rate doesn't shock [its] local MP."

Today, an additional report was released by Senator Murray Sinclair, who was tasked with investigating Thunder Bay's Police Services Board (Sinclair is well known for chairing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Its final report and findings previously on Metafilter).

Thunder Bay Police Services Board Investigation - Final Report (pdf):

The Board has failed to recognize and address the clear and indisputable pattern of violence and systemic racism against Indigenous people in Thunder Bay. Moreover, the Board’s failure to act on these issues in the face of overwhelming documentary and media exposure is indicative of willful blindness.

In his report, Sinclair went on to recommend disbanding the board and replacing it with an emergency administrator. That happened today:

The police services board in Thunder Bay was disbanded and an administrator appointed in its place on Friday after a report found relations between the force and the city’s Indigenous community were in a crisis that constitute an “emergency.”

In the report commissioned by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission — the second such review to be released this week — Senator Murray Sinclair said the board had failed to deal with the “clear and indisputable pattern” of violence and systemic racism against First Nations people in the city.


In response to Sinclair’s findings and 45 recommendations, the commission appointed lawyer Thomas Lockwood as administrator for at least one year, effective immediately.

“The board’s repeated failures to address the concerns of the Indigenous community constitute an emergency,” Linda Lamoureux, executive chairwoman of the commission, said in her order.

The decision comes after the board on Monday named lawyer Celina Reitberger as chairwoman — the first Indigenous person to lead the organization.

Alvin Fiddler, grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, agreed with Sinclair’s findings. At the same time, he criticized Lockwood’s appointment.

“It is unacceptable however that an administrator was so hastily selected without any consultation from the Indigenous community and the Thunder Bay community in general,” Fiddler said in a statement.

Meanwhile, in responding to the OIPRD report, Thunder Bay police Chief Sylvie Hauth only referred to "systemic barriers," and did not mention racism.

Calls for investigations into Indigenous deaths in Thunder Bay go back several decades.

APTN (2017): Indigenous Deaths in Thunder Bay: A Timeline

CBC: 'As tragic as it is unsurprising': leaders react to report on systemic racism in Thunder Bay police

Youth from First Nations communities up to several hundred kilometres away are forced to move to Thunder Bay in order to attend high school because that schooling and related services are unavailable close to home. Last week, the body of Braiden Jacob, 17, was discovered in a Thunder Bay park. He was from Webequie First Nation, and had been sent more than 500 kilometres away to attend high school in Thunder Bay.

Recently, a Thunder Bay Police officer was filmed assaulting an Indigenous teenager who was strapped to a gurney. In response, Thunder Bay city councillor Brian Hamilton lashed out on Facebook, telling people they needed to "relax" about the incident.

In 2017, Barbara Kentner died from her injuries six months after being struck by a trailer hitch thrown from a moving vehicle in Thunder Bay:

First Nations woman dies after being hit by trailer hitch thrown from passing car in Thunder Bay, Ont.

How a Facebook lie about Thunder Bay woman killed by trailer hitch spread

Podcasts, books, lectures and additional interviews about Thunder Bay:

Jorge Barrera: How Thunder Bay police fail Indigenous people

Ryan McMahon: Thunder Bay (Fanfare)

Chapter 1: There Is A Town In North Ontario

Locals call it Murder Bay. It might be the most dangerous city for Indigenous youth in the world. But to others, it's their white nirvana. Host Ryan McMahon wants to know - not who killed all those kids, but what killed them. This is Thunder Bay.

Chapter 2 - Clowns

A dark, grainy, cellphone video leads to criminal charges against the mayor, his wife, the chief of police, and a multimillionaire lawyer turned convicted sex offender, whose wife disappeared years ago.

Chapter 3 – Deathly Low Priority

Nine teenagers died. There is evidence of foul play. There are suspects. There are motives. There have even been confessions. But nobody has ever been charged. In a town with no consequences, it will happen again.

Chapter 4 – The Ruthless Game

Agnew Johnston was a lawyer who represented the state against criminals. But he was a criminal himself, paying underage girls for sex. His defence? Everybody in Thunder Bay is doing it, so why are you picking on me? The story of a case that implicated Thunder Bay's elite.

Chapter 5: Burners

What if Thunder Bay isn't broken? What if it's working just as it's supposed to?

Tanya Talaga:

Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City

The story Tanya Talaga had to tell:

"I went to interview Stan Beardy, who was then the grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation … and I asked him about Indigenous voting patterns."

"While I was asking questions, he would look at me and ask me, 'Why is it you aren't writing a story about Jordan Wabasse?'"

After asking her question again, Beardy replied, "Jordan's been missing for 70 days," — prompting Talaga to change the story she was chasing.

From "All Our Relations," the 2018 Massey Lectures:

Lecture 1 in Thunder Bay: We Were Always Here
posted by mandolin conspiracy (14 comments total) 40 users marked this as a favorite
Just saw that this piece by Ryan McMahon was posted by the Globe and Mail in the last hour or so:

A moment of clarity for Thunder Bay - and for Canada - on the extent of systemic racism:

There’s something unsettling about all of this for me, though. How can we know that one place, Thunder Bay, is worse than another? What’s the point of this conversation? There’s no such thing as a racism ranking. There are no racism awards given to cities across Canada. I worry it could become easy for those living in other Canadian towns and cities to dismiss problems in their own communities – at least we’re not as bad as Thunder Bay, they’ll say.

Calling someone a racist is a bit like trolling someone on the internet – it’s easy to throw out words into the universe. The question is: How do we ensure these words land, have an impact and effect change? The real challenge facing Canada is communicating the barriers and aggression that black and Indigenous communities face to the rest of the country. How do we articulate these things to decision makers and policy wonks? How do we tell Joe and Jane Canada that, yes, you don’t face racism, and you may not think it’s a real thing, but we promise you, we’re telling the truth? Trust me, we know it when we see it or hear it. Worse, we know it when we live it.

And he gets into some background on the work her did on the Thunder Bay podcast, linked above.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:12 PM on December 14, 2018 [6 favorites]

I tell you, Ontario in particular is headed in a dark, dark direction.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:24 PM on December 14, 2018 [3 favorites]

I don't doubt that but hatred of First Nations is well traversed territory for Ontario (and the rest of the country). Where we're going is no less bright than anywhere we've been.
posted by Freelance Demiurge at 3:32 PM on December 14, 2018 [7 favorites]

I’ve listened to the first four chapters of “Thunder Bay.” My god that place is baaaad.
posted by ThatCanadianGirl at 7:34 PM on December 14, 2018

Thank you for this excellent and informative post.
posted by k8t at 8:00 PM on December 14, 2018

I tell you, Ontario in particular is headed in a dark, dark direction.

The point here is that this has been a systemic part of our society for more than a century. No one gets to blame this on Doug Ford. This is baked into Canada’s founding myths and we’ve been ignoring it forever.
posted by dry white toast at 9:50 PM on December 14, 2018 [17 favorites]

Thunder Bay was also home to a white supremacist coffee company at one point.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 1:30 AM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]

I'm trying to imagine some decolonized future for us, but it's hard to see that future when faced with the kind of hatred you hear from some people... I'm not sure where we are beyond the most basic goals of not-murdering, and allowing access to clean drinking water, for indigenous people .? Feels like a low bar but we are not there.

After listening to Thunder Bay, I felt like we need to start fresh, build highschools in every community and bulldoze the existing town into the lake.
posted by ServSci at 4:27 AM on December 15, 2018

Thunder Bay isn't even part of Ford Nation, electorally speaking, which is frankly mysterious to me because I grew up there and lots of white people there are comfortable with being racist as fuck.

And jesus fuck that podcast series. An (allegedly) blackmailing mayor and an establishment (allegedly) riddled with pedos. And those poor kids, those poor kids.
posted by Sauce Trough at 5:32 AM on December 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

I grew up in Sarnia and my wife in Thunder Bay...both places are racist as hell towards Indigenous peoples, but this year we're going to Thunder Bay for Christmas, which means we can look forward to getting into arguments about how this podcast, police report, etc. are just out-of-towners blowing stuff out of proportion to make the city look bad, how we don't understand "what it's like" (i.e. for white people) up there, how they're not and cannot be racist because they know this one native dude who's a good guy, etc...

When I met my wife and started traveling up there in the early 2000s, long before I knew anything specific about any of these issues, I thought Thunder Bay had a bad, unhappy vibe in general. At first I chalked it up to my wife's personal feelings towards the place (she was always getting out of there, and did so at the earliest possible opportunity...as, come to think of it, did every single one of her friends from childhood and high school) rubbing off on me, but now that I've been going up there for going on 20 years and all this stuff has entered the broader consciousness it's clear that it's not just my imagination. I'd never heard about that fucking nazi coffee shop; I'm almost positive we never went there, which is a small relief.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:22 AM on December 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

This is baked into Canada’s founding myths and we’ve been ignoring it forever.

lots of white people there are comfortable with being racist as fuck

And Vancouver Island, get any white people alone and they are happy to explain what's wrong with "the Indians" or "the Natives". Or hey, try rural Nova Scotia, they have black people there so they can be racist in a relatively unique way by Canadian standards. So, actually, I guess pretty much anywhere other than a large metro urban center, it would seem...

I grew up in Vancouver and I drank the Flavor-Aid about my country being a multi-cultural tolerant place, how we were better than the States. The more I learn, the more I feel like a chump.
posted by Meatbomb at 9:56 AM on December 15, 2018 [3 favorites]

That Thunder Bay podcast is unreal. Have been listening to it the last little while. Each episode i'm all, "Well this is fucked up. Where do you even go from here?" And then the next episode is even more fucked up.
posted by chunking express at 7:11 AM on December 17, 2018 [1 favorite]

Robert Jago (via Twitter on December 17):

Marlan Chookomolin died about 18 months ago. Police admit they have suspects. Still - it hasn’t been ruled a murder. So no official crime, no affect on the Thunder Bay Police Service’s ‘solve rate’. This is an active example of what’s wrong in TBay.

The police union today says they’re not racist and boast about their solve rates. But just last week the OIPRD found they weren’t treating the deaths of Natives as crimes - like in Marlan’s case. It’s maddening how deliberately dense these people are.

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:14 PM on December 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

This was published today...

Thunder Bay must admit the truth

In late December I stepped off of the plane to come home to Thunder Bay. As I was waiting for my bags I couldn’t help but overhear other passengers and their loved ones chatter about news in the city.

“I think that girl deserved it,” one woman said about the young girl who was seen on video being punched by a police officer while restrained to a gurney.

“Did you hear it was another native that killed that kid? So much for racism hey?” another man said about the death of Braiden Jacob.

posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:39 PM on January 2, 2019

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