RCMP probe of indigenous teen deaths in Thunder Bay “not necessary”

The Canadian Press
June 09, 2017
By The Canadian Press
THUNDER BAY, Ont. — The acting police chief of Thunder Bay, Ont., says she doesn’t believe it’s “practical or necessary” for RCMP to investigate the recent deaths of indigenous teens in the city.

Three First Nations chiefs called last week for the Mounties to intervene and also for increased oversight of the police services board in Thunder Bay.

They said the deaths of Tammy Keeash and Josiah Begg — whose bodies were pulled from local waterways last month — continue what they call an ongoing trend of indifference on the part of Thunder Bay police.

Acting Chief Sylvie Hauth told a news conference on Wednesday that the Office of the Independent Police Review Director will be reviewing the two death investigations as part of their current review.

Hauth says the force is co-operating with the OIPRD — a civilian agency that oversees all public complaints about police in Ontario.

The First Nations leaders said the deaths of Keeash and Begg, as well as the 2015 death of 41-year-old Stacy DeBungee, point to what they called a “policing crisis” around river deaths in Thunder Bay.

“I don’t see our situation as a crisis,” Hauth said.

“For us, currently though what we see is business as usual,” she said. “It has been a challenging period for us, however we need to continue as an agency to do what we do best, and that is to serve and protect our citizens.”

Hauth said the solution involves all members of the community, not just the police.

“We can’t, just as a service alone, fix everything that needs to be addressed,” she said, noting that witnesses not being willing to come forward can impede investigations.

“We need to keep working on those relationships, ensuring that that trust is there,” Hauth said.

The body of the 17-year-old Keeash, from North Caribou Lake First Nation, was found in the Neebing-McIntyre floodway on May 7. Less than two weeks later the body of Begg, a 14-year-old from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, was also found in the river.

DeBungee, from Rainy River First Nation, was found in the river on Oct. 19, 2015.

The chiefs said the affected families support and deserve an independent and professional investigation into the deaths.

And they said the RCMP is the best placed investigative agency to complete the investigations and provide a credible report.

“At this time, we do not believe that this is a practical or necessary action to take,” Hauth said of the chiefs’ call.

“We currently have a review process underway,” she said, adding “NAN (Nishnawbe-Aski Nation) leadership itself has expressed that they have confidence in the OIPRD review and we will continue to co-operate with the director and follow that course of action.”

- Peter Cameron in Toronto

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2017

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