There’s no crisis in Thunder Bay and it’s ‘business as usual’ says acting police chief

Anishinabek Nation

Thunder Bay’s police chief has been charged by the OPP for breach of trust.

The entire Thunder Bay police force is under a systemic review by the provincial police watchdog for how it treats Indigenous people.

The Thunder Bay police services board is also under a separate investigation.

Seven First Nations youth have died in the waterways, including two last month, since 2000.

An inquest into several of those deaths, and others, wrapped up last year.

There are cases of adult First Nation people dying in the waterways and police accused of not properly investigating.

There have been calls from First Nation leaders for change, including a media conference in Toronto where Thunder Bay police were accused of treating the deaths as just another “drunk Indian.”

But despite all that Thunder Bay police say they have it under control.

“I don’t see our current situation as a crisis,” said Sylvie Hauth, acting chief for Thunder Bay police at a media conference Wednesday.

Hauth instead said the force is calling the current situation “challenging times” and said police will do what they do best: “That is to serve and protect our citizens.”

The chair of the Thunder Bay police services board was also at the media conference and jumped in when reporters brought up a crisis.

“What would be a crisis?” said Chair Jackie Dojack. “You paint a picture and we’ll tell you whether we think it is a crisis.”

An APTN National News reporter quickly listed off J.P. Levesque recently being charged with breach of trust and obstruction, the Office of the Independent Police Review Board’s ongoing systemic review, the Ontario Civilian Police Commission investigating if Dojack’s police services board is too cozy with the force, the multiple water deaths and whether that wouldn’t define a crisis.

“For us currently what we see is business as usual,” responded Hauth.

Earlier, Hauth said no police force is 100 per cent perfect and neither the Thunder Bay police.
“Let us do our job. We can do it,” said Hauth.

Hauth also rejected a call from First Nation leaders to request the RCMP step in to investigate three waterway deaths in the city: Tammy Keeash, 17, who was living in a group home and found dead in the Neebing-McIntyre floodway on May 7; Josiah Begg, 14, who was found dead in the McIntyre River on May 18; and Stacy DeBungee, who was found dead in the McIntyre River on Oct. 19, 2015.

Tammy Keeash, 17, was found dead in a Thunder Bay waterway.
Tammy Keeash, 17, was found dead in a Thunder Bay waterway.

Hauth said during a press conference that she did not believe it to be “practical” or “necessary” to call in the Mounties.

The Ontario government has said only Hauth, as acting police chief, has the power to call in the RCMP.

Hauth became acting chief after the Ontario Provincial Police charged Thunder Bay police Chief J.P. Levesque with obstruction of justice and breach of trust after he allegedly disclosed confidential information about the city’s mayor Keith Hobbs.

First Nation leaders have said the local Indigenous community has no confidence in the Thunder Bay police or the OPP to investigate the deaths of Indigenous people.

That includes the mother of Keeash, Pearl Slipperjack who accused police Tuesday of not properly investigating her daughter’s death last month that has been ruled a drowning.

Police confirmed Wednesday the contents of APTN’s story that outlined that there were markings on Keeash’s hand, who Slipperjack thinks was bite marks, and on her face. As well, where she was found there was little to no water as the floodway is full of thick reeds.

She was also found with one shoe on and the other up on a nearby hill.

But police said that evidence didn’t point to murder.

“I think something more happened to her. Something more than what cops are telling me,” Slipperjack said.

-with files from Jorge Barrera

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Investigative Reporter

Kenneth Jackson is an investigative reporter in Ottawa, Ont. with more than two decades in the business. He got his start in community newspapers before joining the Ottawa Sun in 2007 where he worked the police beat. In 2011, Jackson joined APTN to break the Bruce Carson scandal. The former senior aide to Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried using his contacts in the federal government to sign water deals with First Nations. The RCMP would charge Carson with influence peddling based on APTN’s reporting. The case would make it all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which upheld his conviction in 2018. In recent years, Jackson has focused, almost exclusively, on the child welfare system in Ontario. The work has earned multiple awards, including the 2020 Michener Award.

11 thoughts on “There’s no crisis in Thunder Bay and it’s ‘business as usual’ says acting police chief

  1. Her jeans and underwear were down around her ankles…and we are expected to believe that is typical of drowning? These kids grow up around water…and they rarely drown from the reserves while on the reserves….they go to thunder bay and suddenly can’t swim or keep their pants on while drowning

  2. It’s because the young person is aboriginal if that was any other person it would be the biggest crisis in Ontario smh..and yet the police are granted this job by the government has on a personal basis I think that we should have an aboriginal police force of our own to police our own people most likely we would out shine the real police………

  3. This is a very racist city with racist intent. With the insights of 1850 colonialism. The city is obviously in fact a place excepting murder. There is or are serial killers in this city. Beware of you are native like myself to steer clear of this horrible place that’s allows the murder of our native brothers and sisters. Scary times

  4. This is a very racist city with racist intent. With the insights of 1850 colonialism. The city is obviously in fact a place excepting murder. There is or are serial killers in this city. Beware of you are native like myself to steer clear of this horrible place that’s allows the murder of our marine brothers and sisters. Scary times

  5. On June 4, 2017 shortly after midnight: a 15 year old youth from a First Nation in Northern Ontario, was attacked by three white males in their 20s, one was shaven headed, one blond and the third no description.
    The assailants were driving a black SUV van, he was pulled into the vehicle while walking home. In self-defence he bit the arm of one of them, at the same time he grabbed a plastic bag in the vehicle which was filled with a heavy object. (Premeditated murder?) He hit a second perpetrator over the head, likely causing injury.
    He extricated himself from the vehicle, to which the occupants reversed and struck him. The youth managed to get away with bruising.
    The Thunder Bay Police Service were notified and they did take a statement, as well as Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation.
    I was told yesterday by the youth’s uncle that he was being interviewed by APTN, and I provided the family with the contact number for the Toronto Star.
    If this is not attempted murder, (heavy weighted bag??) I am assuming that to the TBPS that it’s just “kids” having fun or they personally know the “things” involved.

  6. Wow, is almost seems like the tbps are covering up for someone. For sure Keeash was murdered. Doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that. First Nations are less than, in they’re eyes

  7. So…there you have it! The Ontario government has said the acting chief of police has to request the rcmp conduct an investigation and the acting chief says there is no crisis.
    So they can all dust their hands off and that’s that!

    1. Sad they were all white only if they knew ……tn they would be on that so fast …. And fuck the highway of years … Only white people get star treatment I hope all natives sleep with the rest of em. Thanks RCMP for not investigating we need our tax dollars for our white people only. Dumb I ndians cops will never do a thing for u understand see Chum!!!!!.

      1. It is business as usual -police continue to obstruct justice (deny the evidence of eyewitnesses in Tammy’s death, the police services board is still under investigation, the force is still under review by the provincial police watchdog .. hmmm been here 45 years and don’t recall this being ‘usual’

      2. It is very sad that young children are dying and somethings have not
        yet been answered. Blaming White people for these deaths and being racist against White people every time there is a death, crime or what ever, Will not fix the problem

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