THUNDER BAY - The Thunder Bay Police Services Board will be taking a significant step forward toward reconciliation as it publicly acknowledges the existence of systemic racism in the Police Service and the Board.
This weekend, the Police Services Board will be participating in an Acknowledgement and Reconciliation Circle with the public and First Nations.
“It is to acknowledge the existence of systemic racism with respect to both the board and the Police Service,” said Thunder Bay Police Service Board chair, Celina Reitberger. “It’s crucial because one of the things we are going to provide is the definition of systemic racism, which has to do with the way our systems are set up that cause these problems.”
The public acknowledgement of systemic racism follows a report by Senator Murray Sinclair ordered by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission. The report found the board failed to address the concerns of the Indigenous community when it came to policing in Thunder Bay.
Sinclair’s report followed Independent Police Review Director, Gerry McNeilly, and findings of systemic racism in the Thunder Bay Police Service at an institutional level.
The Acknowledgement and Reconciliation Circle will take place on Sunday, Jan. 13 at 2 p.m. at the Ka Na Chi Hih Treatment Centre on Dease Street.
Taking part will be members of the Police Services Board, First Nation members and elders, Thunder Bay Police Service chief, Sylvie Hauth, and the public.
Reitberger said it is important the public come out and participate, because that is who the Police Services Board works for.
“That is who we represent,” she said. “Many of the people we hope will be there have had difficulties in the past and we want to, hopefully, make them feel more confident in the police services board and the Police Service.”
This will be the first big step forward for the Police Services Board, Reitberger added, and she believes the Acknowledgement and Reconciliation Circle will lead to positive changes.
“It’s not like anybody personally is going to be flogged or flayed or criticized,” she said. “We are hoping it is going to be a very positive event and concentrate on moving forward in a good way.”