Thunder Bay police under fire over handling of death and missing First Nations youth

(The parents of Josiah Begg make another plea for his return Wednesday at a media conference in Thunder Bay. “Please come home,” said his mom Sunshine Winters. Photo: Willow Fiddler.)

APTN National News
The conduct of Thunder Bay police and its handling of its investigations into a missing youth and the death of another came under fire Wednesday as chiefs said they have no confidence in police to conduct thorough investigations.

Police ruled there was no foul play in the death of Tammy Keeash, 17, May 7.

And police haven’t been able to locate Josiah Begg, 14, who has been missing since May 6.

“All available resources should have been deployed on a 24/7 basis since the day Josiah disappeared and the city should be turned upside down until he is found,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “Police have done no better investigating Tammy’s death, accepting drowning as the cause but failing to determine how she ended up in the water.”

According to the chief of North Caribou Lake First Nation, where Keeash was from but living in a Thunder Bay group home, Keeash was trained to survive in difficult environments.

“Tammy lived in community surrounded by water. As a member of the Junior Canadian Rangers she was trained to survive in harsh conditions. We are skeptical about how she died and where her body was found,” said Chief Dinah Kanate. “We have many questions and look to the police and appropriate agencies for answers.”

Begg, from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, was in Thunder Bay with his father for a medical appointment when he was last seen around 10 p.m. near the Vale Community Centre.

“It is a stressful time for the family and our community as we await word of our missing youth, Josiah Begg,” said Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug Chief James Cutfeet.

Police said May 12 that a post-mortem examination indicated Keeash’s death was consistent with drowning.

NAN has pushed police to treat Keeash’s death as a suspicious death after her body was found in the Neebing McIntyre floodway.

“Our communities do not have confidence in the police to conduct thorough investigations. Our leaders are now forced to pool their resources to coordinate their own searches and – potentially – fund their own private investigations. If the police won’t act, we will,” said Fiddler.

NAN said the missing persons investigations have been questioned before, which led to the inquest into the deaths of seven NAN youth since 2000 while living in Thunder Bay.

In November 2016, the Office of the Independent Police Review Director announced a systemic review of the Thunder Bay Police Service’s practices for policing Indigenous peoples.

The review is looking at policies, practices and attitudes regarding missing persons and death investigations said NAN.

NAN has established a command centre at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School to lead the search for Begg.

“We are heartbroken over Tammy’s tragic loss and our hearts and prayers are with her family and the Weagamow community, who laid her body to rest (Tuesday),” said Deputy Grand Chief Anna Betty Achneepineskum. “We appreciate the efforts of everyone searching for Josiah and we will not give up hope for his safe return. His family and community desperately want him back, and we will do everything possible to find him.”

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8 thoughts on “Thunder Bay police under fire over handling of death and missing First Nations youth

  1. The solution really is to emphasize the treaties, Tammy Keeash and the now missing Josiah Begg are technically citizens of sovereign states. Canada by signing treaties with us have acknowledged that we are respective nation states and as such. This dereliction and systemic abuse really would be justification according to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties for us to null and void the treaties entirely.
    This means that we would have entitlement to our lands and resources of which we never had extinguished.
    In other words we could consider these rampant acts of barbarity as formal declarations of war and as such, for the greater safety, security and prosperity of our body politic. It’s in our society’s best interests to mobilize and inaugurate a well-regulated militia. Of which we have the resources to do so.

  2. Thoughts and prayers to these families suffering their losses… Much love to the one on their spirit journey that we know about and to the other yet unknown where abouts….Also, that the powers that be realize they are not accountable nor attentive to an entire race of human beings that deserve common decency just like any other human being….We feel, we care, we think, we love, we bleed red just like all y’all….Only difference is we would never mistreat others this same way (an entire race of ppl still allowing genocide to continue on another race of people for hundreds of years???…Wtf?)

  3. IM so sick to my stomach knowing what a sloppy job the tbay police has done by all means we need to protect ourselves

  4. They have to build more street lights along the river and start putting cameras in the blind spots where traffic can’t see and where pedestrians can’t see! we need these to be put in place and I believe it’s a group of people, Caucasian people who are doing this to us natives how many more aboriginals have to die before anything is actually done most of us aboriginals know how to swim, knows how to survive in situations, we’re able to make fire without using a lighter or matches, we know how to hunt and to make shelter, we provide for everyone and not just for ourselves.
    I have two teenagers out there for high school and my heart stops beating when I worry about my children I know my children like to go hangout and visit friends different parts of the city.
    I’m also greatful that some of the city is willing to help and donate to help my family members look for their son and the co-operation that everyone is giving from all around I pray that this Josiah comes home safely and unharmed and to the family of the late Tammy keeash and the other aboriginals students who died over the years I hope they find answer and look into more.

    1. I truly believe the camera idea around the river should be enforced!…excellent idea.

  5. Non-native police will always frustrate the people in the delivery of quality police services. They are not accountable, are not stakeholders and have shown a deliberate indifference to the natives they are supposed to protect. It’s time for natives to control police service in Indian allotted lands.

    1. There has to be a way to establish a Native Warriors Unit. Nah wu tsineh Masi.

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