The following is an open letter shared with Cornwall Newswatch about the absence of Cornwall Police Service Chief Shawna Spowart:
Dear members of council, members of the Police Services Board, Solicitor General Kerzner and Attorney General Downey,
I have been critical of the Cornwall Police Service and of the institution of policing for some time. So, it is a difficult step for me to advocate for Chief Shawna Spowart.
Everyone knows Chief Spowart is the first female chief at CPS. She is also openly gay. During her term, she has been leading the large EDI initiative at CPS. An initiative that arose in the flaming ashes of the former Police Association President claiming publicly, in the aftermath of the world watching George Floyd’s murder, that there was no racism in policing. Former Chief Aikman had to take immediate action to correct that statement.
When I read the articles (linked below) in the Standard Freeholder on June 9th, June 11th and Councillor McIntosh’s column in the Seaway News on June 14th column was not , I was angry, frustrated and incredulous. I added my signature to an open letter to local media.
The Freeholder articles are not journalism. There was no investigation. My initial instinct was that it was an attempt to “take down” Chief Spowart by members of the force who have issues with her identity as a woman, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, and as a leader of EDI initiatives that are no doubt causing ripples in the force.
I have now been contacted by a whistleblower from inside CPS who outlines that this is part of a long-term campaign of harassment, fueled by homophobia, misogyny and racism against Chief Spowart. I am enclosing two letters from whistle blowers inside CPS who have asked me to share these letters. They wish to remain anonymous. They fear retribution for speaking out.
The letters show this is a deliberate, planned set up of Chief Spowart, and that this pattern has been played out at least four times already in other jurisdictions in Ontario, in almost exactly the same way, by the same research company. The whistleblower says it appears this particular research company has the support of the Police Associations of Ontario and there seems to be a “playbook” for taking down Chiefs who are not white men. Three women and one Indigenous chief are down, and it looks like sights are set on Chief Spowart.
The campaign against Chief Spowart, a gay woman, leads me to question the ability of CPS to respond to ongoing harassment and false police reports against members of the LBGTQ+ community in Cornwall. I am aware that on several occasions, CPS has not responded appropriately to this harassment. But that isn’t my story to tell.
The Cornwall Police Service has a problem, a lot of problems. But it isn’t Chief Spowart, and terminating her or forcing her out or allowing this disgusting campaign to continue are not the solution. The problems at the CPS are homophobia, racism and misogyny.
Cornwall and the world is changing. Institutions need to change. We need to become a more diverse and vibrant community, and as long as a police force exists, it needs to be working towards meeting the needs of the community it serves. Letting this coup happen at CPS does not serve the needs of CPS, Council or of our community. The boy’s club of policing no longer serves us. Change is hard and ugly, but it is desperately needed.
Lastly, Councillor McIntosh’s comments in his column struck me as inappropriate. Less bold comments were made by then Councillor Towndale not too long ago about the sudden departure of the Fire Chief, and he was admonished for those comments. Why is it appropriate for Councillor McIntosh to do so now? It undermines public confidence in the Chief, in the CPS and in our community.