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'It’s unfortunately something I’m used to': Indigenous leader on losing bid for police board seat to mayor’s campaign manager

The chorus of disappointment is growing louder after city council selected a political insider to fill a vacant seat on the London Police Services Board (LPSB).

Susan Toth pulled no punches when asked about council’s selection to fill the seat she recently vacated.

“Council last night sent a very strong message to the Black and Indigenous population that diversity doesn’t matter. It’s 2023 and London has decided to go backwards,” Toth told CTV News London.

From a list of 54 applicants, Ryan Gauss was chosen in the second round of a selection process after receiving eight votes from the 14 members of city council sitting as their Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee.

The choice will leave only one person on the seven-member police board from a diverse background, Chair Ali Chahbar.

Gauss has confirmed that he is not from a diverse background.

He is the director of operations and personnel for London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos, and served as campaign manager for Mayor Josh Morgan in 2022.

He previously worked for over a decade in a civilian role with the RCMP.

“Not a disparage Mr. Gauss who is no doubt qualified,” said Toth who worked with Gauss as an advisor to Morgan’s mayoral campaign.

Toth added, “This was an extraordinary opportunity to show that London is a modern city, a city that understands the importance of having under-represented voices that have been historically been over-policed, and move in the direction of saying we care, we value those voices and will make sure that those voices are in positions of power.”

“It’s a shock, but also not a shock given the relationships of the successful candidate,” said second place finisher Joseph Wabegijig, who received six votes out of 14.

Wabegijig has served on the Wikwemikong Tribal Police Services Board, which is one of Ontario’s largest First Nations police boards, and held an advisory role to the federal government and prime minister’s office.

He was recently hired as the executive director of Atlohsa Family Healing Services.

“It’s unfortunately something I’m used to. I’ve been in positions where I always have to push and work a bit harder than others,” Wabegijig explained.

Mayor Josh Morgan and Ryan Gauss prior to the 2023 State of the City Address. (Daryl Newcombe/CTV News London)On Tuesday night Morgan defended the diversity on the police board, “I believe we have a diverse police services board. We have gender balance. We have a chair who is from a diverse community. We also have an advisory committee that serves the board to reflect a large range of diversity that’s within the community.”

“That could not be further from the truth,” Toth countered. “Gender parity is not diversity. Having one person of colour, a person of colour that is not from the Black or Indigenous community is not diversity. We know better. We should know better.”

She added that the mayor’s reference to the board’s Anti-Racism Advisory Panel misses the point.

“It’s an advisory panel that the board can ultimately choose to ignore. The point of diversity is you put people in positions where they actually have the ability to make change,” Toth explained.


The second round of the selection process:


  • Ryan Gauss (eight votes) — Morgan, Pribil, Hillier, Lewis, Cuddy, Van Meerbergen, Stevenson, Lehman
  • Joseph Wabegijig (six votes) — Hopkins, Rahman, Franke, Ferreira, McAlister, Trosow
  • Absent — Peloza

Morgan said his vote in the second round was not based on Gauss’ role last year on his campaign.

“There’s often people who work on campaigns, on many campaigns, who are appointed to boards and commissions across the city,” he explained. “I have no concerns with that. In fact, my decisions were made based on the qualifications of the individual.”

Wabegijig would like to see improvements to the application process that would assist in improving diversity, “There are a tonne of people who can bring my background and experience. [They] can bring an innovative lens to improve the situation in the city.”

Toth would like to see Gauss step aside before the appointment is finalized, or for council to make a different choice when they meet to finalize the appointment April 4.

“There is an opportunity for people to make a better decision,” she said.

Wabegijig, the second place finisher, received six votes from council members.

In his application, Wabegijig described his experience serving on, and he has been in advisory roles to the federal government. Top Stories


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