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Justice (25-42)

Thunder Bay police chief resigns ahead of discreditable conduct hearing

January 17, 2023
Sylvie Hauth, a 30-year veteran with the service, was the first female police chief in Thunder Bay, appointed in 2018.

The Globe and Mail: The Thunder Bay Police Services Board has accepted the resignation of suspended police chief Sylvie Hauth, just weeks before she was to face a hearing on charges of discreditable conduct and deceit.

In a press release Tuesday afternoon, the board thanked Ms. Hauth for her 30 years of service and wished her well in her retirement.

She first announced her retirement last June, the same day the discreditable conduct and deceit charges under the Police Services Act were announced by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission. She was suspended by the board – which has been under the authority of administrator Malcolm Mercer, appointed by the commission last spring – days later.

Ms. Hauth, a 30-year veteran with the service, was the first female police chief in Thunder Bay, appointed in 2018 after filling in for then-suspended police chief J.P. Levesque. He was acquitted on criminal charges the previous year before quietly retiring amid an unresolved policing crisis with Indigenous people in the city. The board says Ms. Hauth joined the service in 1993 with a master’s in criminology and rose through the ranks working in criminal investigations, uniform patrol and community services.

Her appointment to the top job came with high hopes and expectations that she would lead the embattled force out of a crisis that’s been fuelled by decades of police mistreatment against Indigenous people – validated in reports by the province that confirmed systemic racism had infiltrated the institution. Those reports came with recommendations that some saw as the clear roadmap needed to bring about meaningful change.

The commission said last October that it had “largely substantiated” the allegations against Ms. Hauth related to an improper criminal investigation against board member Georjann Morriseau, who filed human rights complaints against the chief and board in 2021 after learning she had been investigated for misconduct. Several active and former officers also filed human rights complaints against Ms. Hauth and the board for harassment and discrimination.

The board and Ontario’s Solicitor-General requested an OCPC investigation and its preliminary findings substantiated some of the allegations including how Ms. Hauth had attempted to deceive the board about her actions through misinformation.

Ms. Hauth’s Police Services Act hearing was scheduled for Feb. 6. Her retirement takes effect Jan. 27, meaning the charges are effectively dropped.

The board said in its announcement that acting Chief Dan Taddeo will continue in his role until a new chief is appointed.

Board secretary John Hannam said applications for the new police chief closed before Christmas and if all goes well members expect the new leader in place by the end of June, which was Ms. Hauth’s original retirement date. The Globe has learned the previous board wasn’t going to renew her five-year contract.

The hiring committee consists of all three members of the board – Mayor Ken Boshcoff, Councillor Shelby Ch’ng, and Ms. Morriseau – and three additional community members who are Indigenous – Cora Lee Mcquire-Cyrette, David Paul Achneepineskum and Denise Baxter – as per a recommendation from an expert panel hired last spring to advise the board.

The panel delivered an interim report last fall which included the recommendations for the search for a new chief, including that the position go to an Indigenous person or someone from another racialized group. The expert panel is led by former Toronto Police Services Board chair Alok Mukherjee and is made up of other policing and governance experts.