First Nations leaders say Thunder Bay police handling of missing teen was ‘unacceptable’

Mackenzie (Nathan) Moonias

Mackenzie Moonias, 14, was last seen on Dec. 13 in Thunder Bay.

First Nations leaders in northern Ontario are questioning the missing persons reporting process in Thunder Bay after the discovery of a teen’s body near the city’s waterfront.

According to police, Mackenzie Moonias, 14, was last seen on Dec. 13.

Thunder Bay police sent out the first missing person notice about Moonias late Friday night, Dec. 15. Police are not answering questions about Moonias’ death or when they were notified that she was missing.

In the statement released by Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler and Neskantaga Chief Chris Moonias said the teen’s body was discovered on Monday near the Sleeping Giant Parkway – not where she was last seen.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, and the Neskantaga community who are grieving this terrible loss so close to the holidays,” said Fiddler in the release. “They are our focus right now, but this disappearance has raised serious questions about the protocols and procedures around missing person investigations involving Indigenous youth.”

City police had been holding a scene near the parkway since Saturday.

Neskantaga Chief Chris Moonias said there needs to be a thorough investigation.

“Many of our youth are forced to leave home as young as 13 or 14 years old in order to pursue their education. They are often faced with challenges they are not prepared for, and it can be an overwhelming experience,” said Moonias.

“It is unacceptable that we continue to bring our youth home in coffins. We fully expect that Mackenzie’s death will not simply be ruled an accident before a thorough and competent investigation is conducted,” said Moonias.

The two leaders said they were “extremely concerned that gaps in the process for reporting missing persons, identified through the Seven Youth Inquest, are apparently still at play when Indigenous youth are reported missing.”

The Seven Youth Inquest examined the deaths of seven First Nations youth who died between 2000-2011 in Thunder Bay. Many were students at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School.

In 2016, the Inquest jury made 145 recommendations including what should be done when a student goes missing. Many of the recommendations have yet to be fully implemented. It’s not clear whether Moonias attended the same school.

Chris Moonias said he’s expected to arrive in Thunder Bay on Tuesday.

In an email on Monday, Thunder Bay police wrote, “Missing person Mackenzie (Nathan) MOONIAS has been located. This is now a private matter between investigators and family. No further information will be provided at this time.”

According to a statement from NDP MPP Sol Mamakwa, Moonias was in Thunder Bay attending school.

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