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Former Chief, current Deputy Minister accused in WRPS lawsuit

Last Updated Jan 11, 2018 at 9:21 pm EDT

570 NEWS - Erin Anderson

The size and scope of the over $160-million class-action lawsuit against Waterloo Regional Police continues to grow.

A number of new affidavits have been filed, including three which involve former WRPS Chief Matthew Torigian – who is currently serving as Ontario’s Deputy Minister of Community Safety.

Douglas Elliott is the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit. He says many of the initial allegations took place when Torigian was our Chief of Police.

“In three of the recent affidavits that have been filed, there are direct allegations that have been made against former Chief Torigian, and they all took place at different times. Shelley Heinrich used to be a Constable under Sgt. Torigian, and was told she’d be ‘a constable for life’. Heinrich of course never went beyond the rank of acting Staff Sgt., while Torigian rose to become the Chief, and is now the Deputy Minister in charge of all police training in Ontario.”

Another affidavit by Superintendent Barry Zehr claims that Torigian was aware of systemic issues within the Police Service, like sexual harassment and gender-based discrimination.

“Somebody who would allow this kind of toxic work environment to occur, and that they’re responsible for training new recruits in Ontario .. that’s gotta be a cause for great concern for many people,” says Elliott. “This lawsuit now stretches very wide – there are allegations being made against the lawyer for the Association, against the President of the Association, and against the former Chief.”

Torigian has released a statement to 570 NEWS refuting the claims, and says he looks forward to defending himself in a complete manner.

Douglas Elliott says Torigian will also have the chance to provide an affidavit through the Police Association or Service.

“A press statement is not evidence that will be considered in court. These three affiants have sworn under oath that these facts are true and will be up for cross-examination by the Police Service, and there will be a hearing on June 18.”

The final affidavits will be filed in the next day or two before cross-examinations begin, which are expected to be completed by the middle of February.

You can read a full statement from the lawyer representing the Waterloo Regional Police Services Board below.