Tag Archives: Ontario Provincial Police

Thunder Bay Police Rejects First Nation Leaders’ Call for RCMP Probe of River Deaths

APTN National News |

The acting chief of the beleaguered Thunder Bay police force rejected a call from First Nation leaders for the RCMP to step in and investigate three waterway deaths in the city.

Thunder Bay police acting Chief Sylvie Hauth said during a press conference Wednesday that she did not believe it to be “practical” or “necessary” to call in the Mounties.

The Ontario government has said only Hauth, as acting police chief, has the power to call in the RCMP.

Hauth became acting chief after the Ontario Provincial Police charged Thunder Bay police Chief J.P. Levesque with obstruction of justice and breach of trust after he allegedly disclosed confidential information about the city’s mayor Keith Hobbs.

First Nation leaders have said the local Indigenous community has no confidence in the Thunder Bay police or the OPP to investigate the deaths of Indigenous people.

Nishnawbe Aski Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, Grand Council Treaty 3 Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh and Rainy River First Nations Chief Jim Leonard last week called on the RCMP to investigate the deaths of: Tammy Keeash, 17, who was living in a group home and found dead in the Neebing-McIntyre Floodway on May 7; Josiah Begg, 14, who was found dead in the McIntyre River on May 18; and Stacy DeBungee, who was found dead in the McIntyre River on Oct. 19, 2015.

The chiefs could not be immediately reached for comment.

Hauth said the OPP completed a review of how the city police handled the DeBungee investigation on May 15. The Thunder Bay police said earlier Wednesday there were no plans to release the report.

The Thunder Bay police botched the handling of DeBungee’s death investigation, according to private investigator David Perry, a former senior Toronto homicide detective. Thunder Bay detectives shut the file on DeBungee, declaring it to be accidental, before the conclusion of an autopsy examination.

Perry discovered DeBungee’s debit card was used after his death and that his identification cards were strewn on the river bank near where he was found mixed in with the identification material of another individual who has not yet been found.

Hauth said the OPP review now also extends to the Keeash and Begg deaths.

Serious questions still remain around the deaths of three of seven First Nation youth who were the subject of a coroner’s inquest which ended in June 2016. Five of the seven youth died in Thunder Bay’s waterways and three of those deaths were found to be “undetermined” by the coroner’s jury.

Perry told APTN it’s highly possible foul play may be behind some of these river deaths.

The Thunder Bay police now says it is investigating whether Indigenous youth are being targeted.


Cellphone Surveillance Technology Being Used By Local Police Across Canada

Police have described IMSI catchers as a ‘vital tool,’ used under warrant, to help pinpoint suspects. But civil liberties groups say there’s a lack of transparency and oversight in how police deploy the devices. (Reuters)

CBC News confirms at least 6 police departments use IMSI catchers but several of them won’t say for what

By Matthew Braga, Dave Seglins, CBC News Posted: Apr 12, 2017

At least six police forces across Canada are now using cellphone surveillance technology, but several of them won’t say whether they use the devices to eavesdrop on phone calls and text messages.

Calgary police, Ontario Provincial Police and Winnipeg police all confirmed to CBC News they own the devices — known as IMSI catchers, cell site simulators or mobile device identifiers (MDIs) — joining the RCMP, which has used the technology for its own investigations and to assist Toronto and Vancouver police.

While Ontario and Winnipeg police refused to say whether they use the technology to intercept private communications, Calgary police and the RCMP insist they only deploy their IMSI catchers to identify — and occasionally, in the RCMP’s case, track — cellular devices.

Police have described the surveillance devices as a “vital tool” used under warrant to help pinpoint suspects, and as a first step toward applying for wiretaps in serious criminal and national security investigations.

But Micheal Vonn, policy director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and a legal expert on privacy, says she’s concerned there isn’t a warrant process specific to IMSI catchers that establishes strict limits on how the technology is used given its potential for mass surveillance.

“It’s nothing but a policy choice for some law enforcement not to use the content interception capabilities,” said Vonn, referring to features some IMSI catchers have to eavesdrop on any cellphone within a radius of several blocks. It’s hard to believe “the tantalizing availability of such technology is not going to be exploited,” she said. “It will.”

In an unprecedented briefing with reporters last week, the RCMP insisted that its IMSI catchers cannot currently intercept calls, text messages and other private communication.

After a decade of silence, the RCMP revealed it owns 10 IMSI catchers, which were used in 19 criminal investigations last year and another 24 in 2015 — including emergency cases such as kidnappings or imminent threats to public safety.

Survey of police forces

CBC News has since contacted 30 provincial and municipal police forces across Canada to ask how many IMSI catchers they own, the number of operators trained to use them, and how many times the technology was used in 2015 and 2016.

Only Calgary police answered in full.

Micheal Vonn, policy director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, is concerned police may exploit the surveillance capabilities of IMSI catchers. (BCCLA.org)

Ryan Jepson, the head of Calgary police’s technical operations section, said his force has owned one IMSI catcher since 2015. It was used in six investigations that year, and eight more in 2016.

He says the device is only deployed by “a very small group of trained operators” within his unit, and is only used to identify suspects’ devices — not track their location or collect the content of their communications.

“It’s the same as the RCMP. We don’t intercept private communications,” Jepson said.

Ontario Provincial Police and Winnipeg police each possess at least one IMSI catcher, but declined to discuss:

  • Whether their technology is used to capture the contents of communications.
  • How many technicians are trained to operate the technology.
  • The number of investigations in which the device was used in 2015 and 2016.

Both forces said revealing more information could jeopardize ongoing investigations, court proceedings, and public and officer safety. But Jepson in Calgary disagrees.

“I have no issues with being transparent about it. It was never the intent to be secretive,” he said. “It was about being able to protect certain techniques.”

Others deny use

Several police forces told CBC News they neither own nor use IMSI catcher technology, including Charlottetown police; the forces in Thunder Bay, Sudbury, Halton, Hamilton and London, Ont.; and in Quebec City, Laval and Gatineau, and the Quebec Provincial Police.

Police in Montreal, Regina, Halifax, Ottawa, Niagara and Windsor, Ont., declined to comment, citing policies not to discuss investigative techniques.​

And police from York Region, Peel Region, Kingston and Waterloo in Ontario, as well as Victoria and the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary either didn’t respond in time for publication, or ignored CBC’s requests completely.

Durham Regional Police east of Toronto also ignored repeated requests from CBC to discuss IMSI catcher use, despite applying for a broad federal licence last summer that would allow the force to purchase such a device.

RCMP helps other forces

It’s still not clear whether police in Toronto and Vancouver also own and operate their own IMSI catchers, but CBC News has learned that the RCMP has used the technology on behalf of both forces in the past.

Edmonton police said they don’t own an IMSI catcher, but declined to say how many times they’ve used the technology during the past two years — or whether another police force helped them to do so.

An IMSI catcher pretends to be a cellphone tower to attract nearby cell signals. When it does, it can intercept the unique ID number associated with your phone, the International Mobile Subscriber Identity, or IMSI. That number can then be used to track your phone. (CBC)

The technique has been used in multiple Toronto police investigations, but in Vancouver it may have only been deployed once — in an emergency situation involving a missing person in 2007.

“The Device was used in an attempt to locate or verify the presence of a specific and known cellular phone,” wrote Darrin Hurwitz, legal counsel for Vancouver police’s access and privacy section, in a response last summer to a July 2015 Freedom of Information request from PIVOT Legal Society. “VPD does not own and has never owned this Device.”

Vancouver police didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment, including about whether the force received additional RCMP assistance or obtained its own device since answering PIVOT’s request.

Toronto police spokesperson Mark Pugash wrote in an email that they “do not discuss investigative techniques.”

Calls for rules

Watchdog groups have called for specialized warrants and better public reporting of how the devices are being used.

“We want the police to have the appropriate tools,” said Vonn of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association. “That they don’t have the appropriate oversight and that those tools have the potential for abuse […] the public cares very much about that.”

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada is investigating the RCMP’s use of IMSI catchers, following a complaint filed last year.

“What I can tell you is that we are looking at what type of information the IMSI devices and associated software used by the RCMP are capable of capturing,” spokesperson Tobi Cohen wrote in an email. “For instance, can and do they only capture the unique identifiers associated with a mobile device or are they also capable of capturing private voice, text and email communications.”

Her office called the lack of transparency “a concern,” and supports regular public reporting on the use and effectiveness of new technological powers — something the RCMP has said it could support.


OPP Confirm Body Found In Kenora Is Missing Teen Delaine Copenace

The remains of Delaine Copenace, 16, were found by City of Kenora employees shortly after ‎8 a.m. Tuesday at the end of Water Street, Ontario Provincial Police say. (Facebook)

The remains of Delaine Copenace, 16, were found by City of Kenora employees shortly after ‎8 a.m. Tuesday at the end of Water Street, Ontario Provincial Police say. (Facebook)

By Red Power Media, Staff

Body of Delaine Copenace found, OPP confirm

A body found Tuesday morning has been identified as 16-year-old Delaine Copenace, missing since late February.

City of Kenora employees, discovered human remains shortly after 8 a.m. in the Lake of the Woods area at the end of Water Street.

Kenora Daily Miner and News reports, Police restricted access to the waterfront area while the OPP North West Region Crime Unit and the OPP Forensic Identification Services Unit investigated the scene.

Onlookers gather on Water Street as Kenora detachment OPP investigate a report of human remains located in Lake of the Woods, Tuesday morning, March 22. REG CLAYTON/Miner and News

Onlookers gather on Water Street as Kenora detachment OPP investigate a report of human remains located in Lake of the Woods, Tuesday morning, March 22. REG CLAYTON/Miner and News

The Ontario Provincial Police confirmed the body was Copenace.

Tbnewswatch reports, the identity of the body was released to the media in the early afternoon.

Police in Ontario have released little information and the cause of death has not been disclosed.

Copenace’s body is being sent to Toronto where the Office of the Chief Coroner and Forensic Pathology Services will conduct an examination.

The investigation, which is being conducted by the OPP’s criminal investigations branch and forensic identification services unit, is ongoing.

OPP Release Report On Missing And Murdered Indigenous People

The Ontario Provincial Police released a report on cases of missing and unsolved murders of indigenous people over the last 58 years, on Dec. 16, 2015.

The Ontario Provincial Police released a report on cases of missing and unsolved murders of indigenous people over the last 58 years, on Dec. 16, 2015.

By Red Power Media, Staff

In Ontario Indigenous men are 2 times more likely to be murdered than Indigenous women.

The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) has released a report on cases of missing and unsolved murders of indigenous people, in the hopes that it will lead to new tips or information to further the investigations.

Members of the OPP and First Nations leaders released the report Wednesday morning during a news conference. The report covers the period spanning from 1956 to 2014.

The report comes as the federal government is preparing to launch an inquiry next year into missing and murdered indigenous women in the country. The RCMP has estimated more than 1,200 indigenous women have gone missing or been killed in Canada between 1980 and 2014.

The report found that from 1956 to the end of 2014:

Female indigenous homicides/ missing persons

  • There were 54 homicides involving indigenous females. Eight of them remain unsolved and 46 were solved.
  • Of the 46 solved cases: Nine of the victims were murdered by a family member; 17 were murdered by a domestic partner or spouse; 19 were murdered by a person known to the victim; and one was of “unknown circumstances.”
  • The solved or “clearance” rate for homicides involving an indigenous woman was 85.2 per cent.
  • There were eight missing indigenous females reported to the OPP, and all remain missing.
  • Foul play is possible or suspected in one of these cases.

The report found that from 1978 to the end of 2014:

Male indigenous homicides/missing persons

  • There were 126 homicides involving indigenous males. Only one of these cases remains unsolved and 125 of them were solved.
  • Of the 125 solved cases: 35 were murdered by family members; 10 were murdered by a domestic partner or spouse; 70 were murdered by a person known to the victim; nine were of “unknown circumstances”; and information for one of the cases is not available.
  • The solved or “clearance” rate for homicides involving an indigenous man was 99.2 per cent.
  • There were 39 cases that involve a missing indigenous man.
  • The OPP believe foul play is possible or suspected for 22 of these cases, and 17 of these individuals are considered missing persons.

The OPP’s overall homicide solved or “clearance rate” from 2010 to 2014 was 92.3 per cent, the report said. The OPP defines a homicide investigation to be solved, when charges are laid, regardless if the charges result in a conviction, officers said at the news conference.

“There may be additional persons who are missing or murdered that should be included but their family and/or loved one have not identified them to the OPP as indigenous,” the report noted.

“We recognize that there are many unanswered questions and that we cannot reverse the outcomes for the families and loved ones of those [who] have gone missing or were murdered,” said OPP Commissioner Vince Hawkes in a release, adding he hopes the information “generates further discussion, potential leads, and resolution for the families and communities who have suffered loss.”

Chief Isadore Day, Ontario regional chief of the Assembly of First Nations, said the OPP report on missing and murdered First Nations is a “good starting point” in working towards the process of reconciliation.

Det.-Supt. Dave Truax said the OPP does not believe that any of the homicides are “serial” in nature, meaning they’re likely not the result of a serial killer.

​The OPP began reviewing all cases involving indigenous victims starting in 2011.

The report, which can be downloaded here, includes a compilation of case file information, except in a few cases where families didn’t consent to their release.

OPP To Issue Report On Missing And Murdered Aboriginal Men, Women

A final report by the OPP looking into cases of missing and murdered aboriginal men and women has now been drafted and the force is consulting with stakeholders. (J.P. MOCZULSKI For The Globe and Mail)

The Globe and Mail

Ontario’s provincial police force is finalizing a report on the unsolved murders and disappearances of aboriginal women – and men – that have occurred within its jurisdiction, raising the hopes of First Nations that some investigations will be reopened.

The RCMP have acknowledged more than 1,200 cases in Canada of murdered and missing aboriginal women between 1980 and 2014. Now other forces, including the Ontario Provincial Police, are assessing the scope of the problem in their own regions.

The trails of many of the perpetrators have gone cold and, in many instances, the killers are no longer being actively sought. But increased determination on the part of police agencies across the country to solve crimes against Canada’s indigenous women and girls, along with improved investigative techniques, raises the possibility that some grieving families may finally get the answers they have been seeking.

Supt. Mark Pritchard, the commander of the OPP’s aboriginal policing bureau, said the work of compiling a list of the cases and the details surrounding them began three years ago and arose out of concerns expressed by the Native Women’s Association of Canada and the Sisters in Spirit movement.

While those groups focused on the number of aboriginal woman being slain, Supt. Pritchard said the OPP decided to also look at the cases of missing and murdered aboriginal men. A final report has now been drafted and the force is consulting with stakeholders.

“The report names specific people and locations and dates,” Supt. Pritchard said. “For every one of those, we want to touch base with the families and let them know that it’s happening and also let them see it.”

Once the report is made public, he said, “there is always a value in fresh eyes looking at old cases and technology changes, new approaches, new investigative techniques … .”

Ray Michalko, a former RCMP officer who is a private investigator in British Columbia, said he believes there would be much to gain from the reopening of cold cases involving aboriginal victims in every part of Canada.

Police in B.C. say that “back in the day,” they were not given the resources to adequately investigate the murders and disappearances of indigenous people, Mr. Michalko said. “If I am right, then there are going to be cases across the country where more could have been done or should have been done,” he said. “Maybe by reviewing these files, they may come up with something.”

Families of victims remain skeptical that the police are truly interested in finding out what happened to their loved ones – especially in those cases where much time has passed.

Tamara Chipman, the 22-year-old mother of a two-year-old boy, vanished 10 years ago this month while hitchhiking out of Prince Rupert, B.C., the northernmost tip of the what is known as the Highway of Tears. Her aunt, Gladys Radek, has spent the past decade raising awareness about the problem of the missing and murdered women.

In Ms. Chipman’s case, the police were not notified until a few weeks after she vanished. “It was pretty much a cold case for them and I think they pretty much gave up on her almost immediately,” Ms. Radek said.

If there was any interest on the part of cold-case investigators to take a new look at her disappearance, “we would love to see that happen,” she said. “But I doubt it will. There is a lot of racism with the police, a lot of stereotyping.”

Still, some First Nations leaders are optimistic that the amount of recent publicity given to the murders of aboriginal women could see cold cases reopened and crimes solved.

“The reality is that First Nations women were really second-class, third-class citizens and that’s why we’re dealing with these cases,” said Isadore Day, the Ontario regional chief for the Assembly of First Nations. But “the culture has changed. Social justice is real. There’s a lot more transparency and accountability on the part of the police agencies and I think willingness from folks like the Ontario Provincial Police.”

Once the OPP release their report, the cases it outlines could jog memories, he said. “We may see people step forward and talk about those cases that they wouldn’t have in the past.”