The family of Josiah Begg, the 14-year-old boy who has been missing in Thunder Bay, Ont., for nearly two weeks, says he was the person discovered dead in the McIntyre River on Thursday evening.
Begg was last seen in the city on May 6. He had traveled 600 kilometres to Thunder Bay from the fly-in community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug with his father to access medical services not available in the First Nation.
“What we have been informed by the chief coroner is that while they have yet to do the post-mortem, everything points in the direction it is in fact him,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, after meeting with the family. “The height, the weight. His clothing, his watch, his wallet — everything matches.”
The chief coroner’s office did not confirm Begg’s identification on Friday, saying that arrangements are being made to transport the body pulled from the river to Toronto for autopsy. A spokesperson said an examination should take place over the weekend but could not confirm when the coroner will officially identify the body.
Begg is the second Indigenous teen to be found dead in the McIntyre River system in less than two weeks — and the seventh Indigenous teen whose body turned up in a river in Thunder Bay since 2000.
On May 7, Tammy Keeash, 17, of North Caribou Lake First Nation was found dead in the Neebing-McIntyre Floodway.
That’s a fact that can’t be ignored, Fiddler said.
“Tammy and Josiah went missing the same evening and that should alarm all of us that there is something definitely wrong in this city and we have to do something about it,” he said.
First Nations leaders held a news conference on Wednesday to voice their concerns about the quick conclusion of the Thunder Bay police that Keeash had drowned.
At the same gathering, Begg’s mother, Sunshine Winter talked about her bright, outgoing son and pleaded for his safe return home.
Earlier in the week, Thunder Bay police had discouraged First Nations volunteers from searching the river for Begg, saying there was “no evidence” the boy was in the water.
Ontario Provincial Police dive teams and a helicopter arrived in Thunder Bay Wednesday to begin their search for the teen after being contacted by city police. A number of volunteers have also spent the past 13 days searching.
Those efforts were noted on Friday by Mike McKay, one of Josiah Begg’s grandfathers.
“We had hoped for a better outcome but it wasn’t meant to be,” he said. “I just want to thank everyone for helping us out.”
A body recovered from the McIntyre River by Ontario Provincial Police on Thursday in Thunder Bay is a 14 year-old First Nation boy who had been missing, according to the regional chief for Ontario.
Assembly of First Nations regional chief for Ontario Isadore Day posted condolences to the family of Josiah Begg last evening.
The boy from Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI) has been missing in the city since May 6.
“I wish to send the deepest sympathies to the family of Josiah Begg, Kitchenuhmaykoosib First Nation and to the friends and peers of Josiah,” said Day, in a Facebook post.
The OPP recovered a body from the McIntyre River on Thursday evening, but did not release any identifying details.
The OPP unit was initially called in to assist in the search for Begg.
Begg’s mother describes him as smart, outgoing and very determined. He had just arrived in the city with his father for counselling appointments the day he was last seen.
Police would not confirm the body found is the boy but said they told the Begg family, who are living in a local hotel, about the body that was found.
“The body has to most likely go to Toronto for a post-mortem where hopefully we’ll get some confirmation on the identity,” said Thunder Bay Staff Sgt. Ryan Hughes on Thursday.
Thunder Bay’s criminal investigations branch has secured the scene and is awaiting the results of the postmortem.
“We still have lots of answers that we need to get. We started a search of the area with our tactical unit looking for anything on the shores and we’ll start working our way back from where the body was located,” said Hughes.
The city’s police service has been under fire over the handling of a recent death and missing First Nations youth.
Tammy Keeash, 17, was found dead in a floodway on May 7. Police ruled there was no foul play.
Earlier Thursday, police issued a press release stating “this is not the time for pointing fingers. It is time to join hands and work towards our common goals of finding answers.”
On Wednesday First Nations leaders held a press conference saying they had no confidence in the police to conduct thorough investigations.
Thunder Bay Police are looking for the public’s assistance in locating a missing 14-year-old boy Josiah Begg.
Josiah was last seen on Saturday May 6th 2017 at approximately 6 p.m. at the skate park at Marina Park.
Josiah is described as an Aboriginal male, 5’5″‘, 120 lbs, brown short hair and brown eyes.
Josiah was last seen wearing a red baseball cap, red hoody and grey/white sweat pants.
If anyone has seen Josiah, please call Thunder Bay Police at (807) 684-1200.