The chief of a remote First Nation north of Thunder Bay says police action and inaction has created mob rule in his community, and that complaints about mistreatment and harassment directed to the head of the Ontario Provincial Police have so far gone unanswered.
Chief Wilfred King of Kiashke Zaaging Anishinaabek (KZA), otherwise known as Gull Bay First Nation, is calling for a more comprehensive investigation and stricter punishment for an OPP sergeant, Tammy Bradley, whom he says took a young man from the community on a so-called "moonlight tour" in the summer of 2019.
He said that since Bradley drove Jeremiah Skunk out of the nearby township of Armstrong and left him on the side of the road without food or water in the remote region, she has also targeted others who complained about that treatment and directed other officers — both OPP officers and KZA constables — to do so as well.
And he wants to hear directly from the commissioner of the OPP, Thomas Carrique, on what the force is doing to address both the allegations and the broader lack of policing service available to ensure community safety.
“It's our understanding that this sergeant has been reposted to another detachment and for us that is acceptable,” he said at a news conference in Toronto earlier this week with NDP MPP and deputy leader Sol Mamakwa. “She is still policing and she poses a constant danger to not only First Nations people, but all citizens of Ontario.
“There has to be consequences for what has happened,” he added, calling it “an outright failure of the Ontario Provincial Police, which polices our community, not to investigate this matter.”
KZA, about 190 kilometres north of Thunder Bay, had in 2017 passed a band council resolution that bars police from entering its territory, meaning OPP officers only respond to emergency calls and imminent threats to public safety.
King says he wants Carrique to engage in nation-to-nation talks about OPP policing in KZA.
The nearest OPP detachment is based in Armstrong, an hour’s drive north of Gull Bay.
King says OPP officers have also declined to help when called on to back up the community’s underfunded on-reserve police service, including earlier this month when they withdrew from a situation where a heavily impaired driver was threatening the chief and others.
In response to questions from Canada’s National Observer, an OPP spokesperson said that Bradley had been removed from the community and informally disciplined. She was assigned to non-front-line policing duties elsewhere, the OPP’s Bill Dickson said, and the chief and council at KZA had been informed of this verbally and in writing.
“The OPP takes any allegations regarding its members seriously,” he said in an email. “In this case, the allegations were investigated by the OPP Professional Standards Unit, part of the Office of Professionalism, Respect, Inclusion and Leadership. The complainant was notified of the findings.”
Dickson said he could not provide details on what disciplinary measures may have been taken, citing the confidentiality of a personnel matter.
A lawyer representing KZA on matters of human rights and police accountability, Chantelle Bryson, said the OPP was lying.
“I have never received anything aside from a one-paragraph email from a Crown counsel stating Sgt. Tammy Bradley had been reassigned,” she said.
Meanwhile, she said close contacts of Skunk, including his girlfriend and her mother and the on-reserve constable who found him, have never been interviewed about the incident and Skunk himself had only one phone call with an investigator who didn’t clearly identify themselves.
“So I don't know how you could call that an investigation,” she said.
She said both KZA and the neighbouring community of White Sand First Nation have been raising concerns about anti-Indigenous racism in the OPP for several years.
“To date, there has been no transparency, no accountability, no justice, no public safety or any step forward on the path to reconciliation in this regard,” she said, adding that a member of White Sand First Nation had last week brought forward a new complaint about the same sergeant.
She said they will pursue the three complaints, plus possibly this new one with consent, in the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario and as a Charter challenge in Federal Court.
When asked if the commissioner planned to meet with the chief or other representatives of the community, Dickson, the police spokesperson, said he could not speculate on what may take place.
Morgan Sharp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Canada's National Observer