A member of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board announced Monday that she is taking a month off and filed her third human rights complaint in Ontario since October.
The complaint, filed by former council chairman Georjann Morriseau, includes other allegations of racism and retaliation.
Morriseau told CBC News she was taking a month’s leave due to ongoing issues she was having with the police commission, to focus on ongoing legal proceedings and the needs of her immediate family.
Morriseau is seeking compensation of $50,000 from current council chair Kristen Oliver and secretary John Hannam, as well as $100,000 from each of the other sponsors, including the city of Thunder Bay, the council and the relations firm public KPW Communications.
Morriseau’s lawyer, Chantelle Bryson, says the impact the escalation of events dating back to 2020 has had on her client has been “indescribable”, including an emotional toll that has resulted in economic loss and harm to the public. reputation.
“They do these things knowingly in bad faith, without legal authority, and it’s one thing after another,” Bryson said.
Morriseau, former Chief of Fort William First Nation, an Ojibway First Nation, filed her first complaint last fall based on the police department’s response to an August 2020 incident, when she was approached by a man claiming to be an officer who had evidence of another officer potentially leaking information.
Morriseau alleges she was later investigated by the Ontario Provincial Police who ultimately cleared her of any wrongdoing.
None of the claims in Morriseau’s previous complaints to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) or those of nine officers and two civilian employees have yet to be tested in court.
Board “open” to working with Morriseau: President
The latest complaint alleges that board members and their secretary have unlawfully attempted to remove Morriseau since October, preventing him from attending virtual press conferences, deliberately damaging his reputation, taking strategic actions without the Board approval and refusing to add Morriseau’s items (including his concerns for his own safety) to meeting agendas.
“Council and the City of Thunder Bay have not met [Morriseau] to address his concerns, they did not call for an investigation into these serious concerns,” Bryson said. “What they did instead was perpetually attack him at every board meeting. administration alleging wrongdoing on its behalf, which is completely illegitimate and untrue. .”
In response to the complaint, KPW released a written statement on Oliver’s behalf to CBC News on Monday.
“We remain open to working with Member Morriseau collaboratively to focus on the important work of transforming the police service and rebuilding trust with the community,” Oliver’s statement read.
Bryson claimed that board members and their secretary publicly inferred, without evidence, that Morriseau leaked inside information to The Globe and Mail.
An integrity commissioner released a report to the board in February which found that two Globe and Mail articles “suggest a member of the board breached board confidentiality”, and that if a complaint were filed and an investigation conducted, it could lead to “a recommendation for the harshest sentences available.”
This report does not implicate any board member by name and Principles Integrity, the firm acting as the board’s integrity commissioner, did not contact Morriseau in its investigation. Bryson alleged the inference amounted to “a retaliatory sham” against his client.
Complaint says Oliver and Hannam hired KPW without board approval and PR firm proceeded to organize advisory board members without board input . KPW then released its plan to the media, including a list of panel members, before board approval, it said.
This group, which Council approved at its March meeting, will assess the implementation of recommendations stemming from two 2018 reports that uncovered systemic racism within the Thunder Bay Police Service and oversight failure at the council name.
Morriseau alleged online moderators blocked her from attending a news conference Oliver held earlier this month to respond to a new report of nine Indigenous deaths that was recommended in the Broken trust report.
The new report found that Thunder Bay police failed to secure scenes, interview witnesses or follow up on potential suspects, and left their families without closure. He also called for other cases of Indigenous deaths to be reviewed.
According to the KPW statement, that March press conference was conducted by police commission staff and “at no time was Member Morriseau prevented from attending.”
The previously documented systemic racism in the police department’s culture is the same culture that pushes back on calls for change from its Indigenous board of directors, Bryson claims, referring to Morriseau.
Current external probes
Two other local police investigations have begun, but Bryson is increasingly concerned that a process could backfire on Morriseau, who filed the complaint that started him.
Solicitor General Sylvia Jones has asked the Ontario Civilian Commission of Police (OCPC) to investigate Thunder Bay Police Chief Sylvie Hauth, now-suspended Deputy Chief Ryan Hughes, and their lawyer Holly Walbourne , in response to their December correspondence with Morriseau.
While an OPP investigation continues, Bryson says OCPC investigators have not requested interviews with any of his clients related to more than 20 complaints they filed against a senior officer.
Correspondence between Bryson and external investigation manager Ian Scott shows that the OCPC is now requesting an interview with Morriseau, but is unwilling to share terms of reference that would disclose whether Morriseau is suspected of wrongdoing.
Morriseau was ill with COVID-19 last week when his interview was due to take place. Bryson advises her not to attend the meeting until the OCPC can confirm her role in their investigation.
“We’re not sure what to make of it at this point, but it certainly looks a lot like blatant political interference to keep everyone in place and seek to pin the blame on the plaintiffs and, in particular, council member Morriseau “Bryson said. .