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Thunder Bay police say RCMP inquiry into Indigenous teens’ deaths not needed

Thunder Bay Police Services Board chair Jackie Dojack, left, and Thunder Bay Police acting chief Sylvie Hauth.

Thunder Bay Police Services

The acting chief of Thunder Bay police says there is no policing crisis and no need to bring in the RCMP to investigate the recent deaths of two Indigenous teenagers in the city's waterways.

Sylvie Hauth, who was recently named acting police chief in Thunder Bay, was responding to a call from three prominent Indigenous leaders who said last week that they had lost confidence in the ability of city police to properly investigate these cases.

Ms. Hauth has stepped in to replace chief J.P. Levesque, who was charged last month with obstruction of justice and breach of trust over an alleged incident that involved disclosing confidential information about Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs.

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The acting chief went on to say that the community remains confident in police and that it is "business as usual."

Three First Nations chiefs, Jim Leonard, Alvin Fiddler and Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh, held a news conference at Queen's Park last week in which they insisted that the RCMP be called in and that an administrator be placed in charge of the Thunder Bay police services board.

The chiefs expressed frustration with investigations into the deaths of 17-year-old Tammy Keeash, whose body was found in the Neebing-McIntyre floodway in May, and 14-year-old Josiah Begg, who was found dead in the river a little more than a week later. They were the sixth and seventh Indigenous teenagers to die in the city's waterways since 2000. Police said their investigations into the deaths remain open, but "there is no evidence to link another person or group as being responsible for the deaths of either Tammy Keeash or Josiah Begg."

The Ontario Civilian Police Commission (OCPC) has launched an investigation into the operation of the police services board in response to a written complaint lodged by the chiefs.

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Jackie Dojack, chair of the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, sat alongside acting chief Hauth at a news conference Wednesday. Ms. Dojack said the board is co-operating with the OCPC investigation, which will focus on whether the board is providing sufficient oversight to police.

The Office of the Independent Police Review Director is also investigating Thunder Bay police for the way it handles cases involving First Nations people.

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About the Author
Demographics Reporter

Joe Friesen writes about immigration, population, culture and politics. He was previously the Globe's Prairie bureau chief. More

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