First Nations leaders said an independent review describing the “systemic racism” within Ontario’s Thunder Bay Police Service and its failure to adequately investigate the deaths of nine Indigenous people was troubling, but not surprising.

“I was very concerned, but we already knew what was happening,” Robin McGinnis, the chief of Rainy River First Nations, located west of Thunder Bay, told CTV News Channel. “The thing that surprised me the most was how honest the report was.”

The 206-page report, issued by Ontario’s police watchdog, made 44 recommendations, including that the nine deaths should be reinvestigated.

“The failure to conduct adequate investigations and the premature conclusions drawn in these cases is, at least in part, attributable to racist attitudes and racial stereotyping,” the report concluded.

McGinnis said that he welcomed the recommendations and that they were greeted by “cheering and people standing up and clapping” as they were read.

One of the cases referenced in the report is that of Stacy DeBungee, a member of McGinnis’s community whose body was found in the McIntyre River in 2015. Thunder Bay Police declared after three hours that DeBungee’s death was not suspicious.

“The predetermination by TBPS that the death was not suspicious before the autopsy examination had been conducted contributed to existing beliefs that Indigenous deaths were not investigated in an adequate, bias-free way,” the report said.

It added that DeBungee’s death should have been treated as a potential homicide and that “supervision and oversight of the investigation was wholly inadequate.”

McGinnis told CTV News Channel that such an insufficient investigation has helped to foment “mistrust” between Indigenous people and the police in Thunder Bay.

“There are children that are scared of police officers,” he said.

Peter Collins, the chief of the Fort Williams First Nation, which is adjacent to Thunder Bay, told CTV News Channel that there is “still a lot of work and a lot of issues that need to be dealt with.”

He said that he believes the police need more resources to do their jobs properly and that there should be an enforcement mechanism for ensuring the recommendations are implemented.

“There is no real timeframe to get these issues rectified and there are no repercussions for not implementing the recommendations,” Collins said.

McGinnis said change is not possible without a collaborative effort between the Thunder Bay Police Services, the police board and Indigenous communities.

“There has to be participation on all sides,” he said.

With files from the Canadian Press