September 30, 2016 - 1:59 PM
THUNDER BAY, Ont. - Police in Thunder Bay, Ont., are investigating allegations that racist comments posted on a local newspaper's Facebook page were made by members of the police service.
They say a reporter for APTN News provided investigators with a number of comments which appeared on the Chronicle-Journal's Facebook page regarding a letter from Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler.
Fiddler's letter to the paper was in response to an editorial on a reported incident during an education session for police on indigenous issues.
A number of specific comments posted on Sept. 17 and 18 in relation to Fidler's letter are now the subject of a Police Services Act investigation by the TBPS Professional Standards Unit.
"I think this shows that we still have a very long way to go," Fiddler said in an interview on Friday after participating in an Orange Shirt Day "walk for healing" in Thunder Bay to raise awareness about residential schools.
"There's been a lot of discussion over the last year around reconciliation, the need to for all of us to begin to understand our shared history — including residential schools," he said.
In a statement, the Thunder Bay Police Service said the comments on Fidler's letter are "not acceptable" and do not reflect the values of the force.
The statement added that the police service "would like to apologize to our indigenous community for the hurt these comments may cause."
It called the investigation into the comments "a top priority."
Fiddler said he wouldn't be accepting the force's apology right away, saying he wanted to wait for the findings of the police investigation.
He said the entire issue began with a CBC report that Thunder Bay officers allegedly verbally abused a woman conducting a training session for police on First Nations issues.
"The explanation that was being provided by the city police (was) that this was just a big misunderstanding," he said.
But Fiddler said that during the training session, participants were talking and "laughing on the side," which he described as "so inappropriate on so many levels when something as serious, something as tragic, as missing and murdered indigenous women and girls is being discussed."
The Thunder Bay investigation comes just a few days after police in Ottawa said they were probing derogatory online comments allegedly made by an officer which apparently linked the death of award-winning Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook to the broader issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.
A national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women and girls, which began its preliminary work last month, is expected to explore the actions of police forces and the complaints of family members who say their cases were not taken seriously, tainted by racist attitudes or otherwise mishandled.
— By Peter Cameron in Toronto.
News from © The Canadian Press, 2016