APTN National News
Ontario’s police watchdog held a meeting in Thunder Bay to find out what kind of relationship Indigenous residents have with the city’s police force.
Gerry McNeilly, the Ontario Independent Review Director is currently investigating the force and whether racism plays a role in how officers do their jobs.
“I come to Thunder Bay and there’s so much that people have inside them and there’s so much that people mean to do well and they want to do the best for this community but they haven’t had an opportunity to tell someone about it,” McNeilly said.
More than 200 people packed a meeting hall to address McNeilly.
McNeilly said his investigation into the Thunder Bay police service is unprecedented.
Mike Mckay from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug was there.
He is the grandfather of Josiah Begg, the 14-year-old boy who went missing in May and was later found dead along a river.
Police were criticized for failing to launch a timely search.
But McKay said he wasn’t angry at Thunder Bay for what happened.
“It’s almost like one too many under the same circumstances and what is it? That’s what I’d like to know is what is it, what’s going on, what’s wrong? Why in the same place?”
McNeilly started his review of the city’s troubled police service last November after receiving a complaint about the death investigation of Stacey Debungee, a First Nations man who was found dead in the McIntyre River in 2015.
Since then, there have been similar deaths and concerns, including three river deaths this year alone.
“People have alleged that there’s racism and that’s what I’m looking at to determine if there’s differential treatment or if there’s racism or discrimination in how the police carry their duties so that’s a type of accountability I’m looking for.”
People at the meeting in Thunder Bay shared their experience and recommendations with McNeilly.
McKay, who is a former police officer, said it’s time to acknowledge the racism in the city.
“We take our kids all across the country, people up north take their kids all across the country like in other major cities, other urban centres, but they don’t bring them home in body bags,” he said.
“Why Thunder Bay?”
McNeilly said the turnout was good and he will hold another public meeting in the future.
He said he is aiming to have his report completed by the end of winter.
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