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AMC Raises Concerns Over Appointment of Former WPS Detective to Head Manitoba’s Police Complaints Agency

June 11, 2024

NationTalk: Treaty One Territory, Winnipeg – The Grand Chief of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) says the recent appointment of a former Winnipeg detective to head Manitoba’s police complaints agency is deeply concerning.

Justice Minister Matt Wiebe announced the appointment of former Winnipeg police detective Harmen Wouda to lead the Law Enforcement Review Agency (LERA), the public body in Manitoba to which individuals can file a complaint about the conduct of a municipal police officer. The AMC believes this decision raises significant questions about the independence and impartiality of the agency in overseeing complaints made against municipal officers.

“Within the Justice and Law enforcement system, there remains a persistent lack of trust and transparency in policing matters. This distrust is rooted in previous conduct investigations such as the tragic loss of J.J Harper, Helen Betty Osborne, and recently Eishia Hudson. As First Nations, we need to ensure that the process for investigations is fair and impartial for those that want to come forward with a complaint,” said AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick

The AMC believes Manitoba should follow other provinces like Ontario in enacting legislation banning the hiring of former police officers to lead such agencies.

“Oversight agencies should be led by individuals who embody diverse perspectives and experiences,” said AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick. “Appointing individuals with extensive law enforcement backgrounds will absolutely perpetuate biases, create inherent conflicts of interest, and significantly undermine the integrity and credibility of the oversight process.”

Grand Chief Merrick says there is a critical need for impartiality and transparency in the oversight of law enforcement practices. There is a legitimate concern that individuals with close ties to law enforcement may not provide the necessary scrutiny and accountability to ensure fair and just outcomes for complainants.”

The AMC calls on the government to reconsider this appointment and prioritize candidates with backgrounds in human rights, legal advocacy, and community engagement. To build trust and legitimacy in the oversight process, oversight agencies must reflect the diversity and lived experiences of the communities they serve.

Moving forward, the AMC urges the government to engage in meaningful consultation with our 62-member First Nations. This will ensure that future appointments to oversight agencies are transparent, diverse, and accountable to the best interests of all First Nations and Manitobans.

For more information, please contact:

Communications Team
Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs