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Thunder Bay police board apologizes, pledges to improve police-Indigenous relations

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The civilian oversight board for the Thunder Bay Police Service has publicly acknowledged and apologized for systemic racism in the organization and the local force, and is pledging to work together with the entire community to move forward.

That was at the core of a « reconciliation circle » held in the city on Sunday at the Ka Na Chi Hih centre on the city’s south side. In addition to issuing the formal apology, officials heard suggestions from the community on how best to go about repairing the relationship between police and Indigenous people — one that Sen. Murray Sinclair called an « emergency » in his review of the civilian board tasked with overseeing the police.

« As hard as it is to say, we have to acknowledge that there is systemic racism in the board and in the police service, » police board administrator Thomas Lockwood told the crowd of about 300 people.  « Having said that, on behalf of the board, I wish to apologize to each and every member of the Indigenous community of Thunder Bay for the existence of systemic racism. »

Lockwood is the Mississauga-based lawyer who was appointed by the Ontario Civilian Police Commission to run the police services board while its members receive necessary training.

« This community has suffered a lot over the years because of racism and for that, I apologize. »

« I apologize. » Those words spoken by the administrator running the Thunder Bay Police Services Board in the city yesterday. We’ll hear from people who heard that apology… and what they want to see going forward. 6:23

About 300 people attended Sunday’s ceremony, including police chief Sylvie Hauth and members of the police service, along with representatives from the city.  Mayor Bill Mauro, who also sits on the police board, was not present.

Sinclair’s report, prepared for the civilian police commission, found that the local police services board failed in its duty to provide proper oversight to city police and didn’t adequately address concerns raised by Indigenous people about their interactions with the force.

The Ontario Independent Police Review Director found that racism tainted the death investigations of numerous Indigenous people.

Robin McGinnis is the chief of Rainy River First Nations. The community near Fort Frances was the home of Stacy DeBungee; his flawed death investigation by Thunder Bay police sparked increased scrutiny of the local force. (Nicole Ireland/CBC )

« The fact that it’s been acknowledged here today, I think … it’s huge, I think it’s a huge first step, » said Robin McGinnis, the chief of Rainy River First Nations.  The community west of Fort Frances was the home of Stacy DeBungee; the flawed police investigation into his death sparked the wide-ranging probes that called for police officials to acknowledge and fix the existence of systemic racism in the force and police board.

« It needs to be the starting block for moving forward. »

McGinnis said that progress will need to include everybody — the Thunder Bay community at-large, Indigenous people, police and the services board — working together.

« I have a sense of hope, » he said. « Hopefully I’m not disappointed but the acknowledgements today have backed up that hope that I have. »

Brad DeBungee (left) speaks with Thunder Bay police chief Sylvie Hauth after the release of the Ontario Independent Police Review Director’s report into systemic racism in the Thunder Bay Police Service. (CBC)

For Brad DeBungee, moving forward means a reinvestigation of the deaths of his brother and those of other Indigenous people that the province’s police watchdog found lacking.

« Actions speak louder than words. »

Board member training scheduled

The apology « signals to everyone that mistakes have been made and we’re going to try and do better, » said police board chair Celina Reitberger.

The training necessary for board members — Reitberger, Thunder Bay Mayor Bill Mauro and Coun. Kristen Oliver, along with any incoming appointees — to regain or acquire voting power is scheduled to take place by the end of March.

That includes instruction in cultural competency and police board governance.

Celina Reitberger is the chair of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

Reitberger said the board has also taken the recommendations in Sinclair’s report and broken them down into what can be accomplished in the short, medium and long term. She added that the board is also in the process of taking applications to fill out the vacant positions.

She said that the board is listening to people’s concerns and advice on how to move forward.

« It’s not just going to be ‘oh that was all very nice and you’ve had your say, now go away and let us do what we want to do,' » she said. « There will be definite attention paid to what people are recommending. »

Reitberger said another sharing circle for people to share their experiences with city police is also being planned.

About 300 people attended the reconciliation circle on Sunday at the Ka Na Chi Hih centre in Thunder Bay. (Matt Prokopchuk / CBC)

Working together to build better relationships was a common theme expressed by many in attendance on Sunday.

« All of us as communities, all of us a leaders, is the only way that’s going to change the landscape of this issue that we’re dealing with, » Fort William First Nation Chief Peter Collins said during his speech.

« It can be done. »



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A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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