Indigenous Deaths in Thunder Bay: A Timeline - APTN NewsAPTN News

Indigenous Deaths in Thunder Bay: A Timeline


APTN National News

Nine First Nations youth have died in the northwestern Ontario city of Thunder Bay over the last 17 years.

Seven died by the river’s edge, including two just this year. 

Ontario’s coroner held an inquest in 2015 into 7 of the students who died. The jury issued 145 recommendations directed at Canada, the province of Ontario and the city of Thundery Bay. 

Thunder Bay police insist they are not in a crisis but are experiencing “challenging times” and conducting business as usual.

Here is a timeline of events. 

November 11, 2000 

The body of  Jethro Anderson, 15, from Kasabonika Lake First Nation is discovered Kaministiquia River. 

“We don’t know what happened to him. I guess he just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.” Dora Morris, Jethro’s aunt.

Jethro Anderson
Anderson was a nice, quiet boy who always obeyed curfews, according to his aunt, Dora Morris. He became under Morris’ care when he was eight and she treated him as her own.

“It’s still a mystery,” she said. “We don’t know what happened to him. I guess he just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

Morris remembers giving Anderson and her own son money to go to the mall. The two got separated, apparently, and Anderson never came back.

An inquest called into the deaths of the seven students found Anderson’s cause of death to be undetermined.

September 26, 2005  

Curran Strang, 18, from Pikangikum First Nation is discovered in the McIntyre River. He was attending the Dennis Cromarty Franklin school in the city. 

Curran Strang
His parents did not respond to requests for comment for this article, nor did they have legal representation at the inquest. 

November 11, 2006  

Paul Panacheese, 21, from Mishkeegogamang First Nation died at home while his mother was upstairs getting ready for bed. According to his mother, Paul turned to drugs and alcohol in the last two years of his life. 

Paul Panacheese

“He was really nice,” she said. “Paul always dreamed of going somewhere, of exploring the world.

“The doctor told me there weren’t enough drugs or alcohol that would kill him,” his mother said. “They wanted to know our family history, it had something to do with his heart.”

APTN National News: Thunder Bay Inquest hears mother recall night she found son face down on kitchen floor 

The inquest found his death to be accidental.

January 13, 2007   

Robyn Harper, 18, from Keewaywin First Nation told her her mother Tina that Robyn told Tina she wanted to come home during that week.

Robyn Harper

Then she received another phone call one early morning on the weekend.

“All they told me was that they rushed her to the hospital that morning that she died in the boarding home,” said Tina. 

The inquest found Robyn died an accidental death due to an alleged overdose.

November 1, 2007 

Reggie Bushie, 15, from Poplar Hill First Nation was found lifeless in the McIntyre River. He was attending Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School. 

Reggie Bushie
He lived with foster parents in Poplar Hill First Nation before he went to live in a boarding house in the city.

Reggie had an appreciation for language and music, according to his brother Richie Bushie.

His death was declared accidental by the coroner’s inquest jury.

June 6, 2008

Ontario’s Coroner announces an inquest into the death of 15-year-old Reggie Bushie.


January 2009

The family of Reggie Bushie, with the backing the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, asks that the inquest be put on hold until First Nation jurors can be found. People living on-reserve are not included in a local municipality’s jury roll so are left out. The case is decided in court.

November 10, 2009  

Kyle Morrisseau,17, from Keewaywin First Nation was missing for two weeks before his body was discovered in the McIntyre River in Thunder Bay. He he had been missing for nearly two weeks.

Kyle Morriseau
“Twenty-four hours came along and there was still no sign,” said Christie Kakegumic, Morrisseau’s sister. “It wasn’t like him to not call home. He called almost every day.”
Morrisseau’s family prayed it was him every time the phone rang, but it was never Morrisseau at the other end of the line.

Morriseau’s cause of death was found to be undetermined by the Ontario inquest jury.

May 10, 2011  

Jordan Wabasse, 15, from Webequie First Nation was pulled from the Kaministiquia River.

Jordan Wabasse

He was enrolled at the Matawa Learning Centre in Thunder Bay. An inquest called by the Ontario Coroner’s Office found the cause that led to his death as “undetermined.”

APTN National News: Thunder Bay police ruled out foul play in the case of Jordan Wabasse two days before receiving tip suggesting murder

September 12, 2011

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation calls for the Reggie Bushie inquest to include all the First Nations students who died under similar circumstances in Thunder Bay.

September 1, 2012

The Thunder Bay Police Service mistakenly issues a mock news release after an arrest is made in the murder of Adam Yellowhead. The release states that “fresh breath killer” was captured in Kenora. A human rights complaint is filed. Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs calls it a “coping mechanism” for police.

October 5, 2015 

The inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations students gets underway. The inquest will run from October to June 2016.

October 7, 2015 

Julian Falconer, the lawyer representing the Nishnawbe Aski Nation questions doctors on the possibility that some of the students were murdered. 

APTN National News: Lawyer at Thunder Bay inquest introduces possibility that some students were murdered

October 29, 2015

Stacy DeBungee, 41, from the Rainy River First Nation was pulled from the McIntyre River in the same location where Kyle Morrisseau was found earlier.

APTN National News: Chief questions politics behind OPP’s revelation it reviewed botched Thunder Bay death probe 


Thunder Bay police mishandled DeBungee’s death investigation and failed to follow leads that included evidence DeBungee’s debit card was used after his death, according to an investigation by David Perry, a former top Toronto police homicide detective. Thunder Bay police immediately ruled his death accidental and caused by alcohol before the completion of a post mortem. The OPP recently reviewed the case after two requests from Thunder Bay police.

March 29, 2016

Christina Gliddly, was found unconscious by the McIntyre River.

APTN National News: Death and questions along Thunder Bay’s “river of tears” 


The authorities said the 28-year-old mother from Wunnumin Lake First Nation died of exposure.

Her family doesn’t believe the police and coroner’s version of her death.

Gliddy’s sister Delilah Ostamus said she wants to see a reopening of her sister’s case.

“Some of her clothes were missing and one of her shoes,” said Ostamus. “We tried asking why there were marks on her body, bruise-like marks and her head had two big bumps.”

The Thunder Bay police did not return requests for comment seeking a status update on Christina Gliddy’s case.

June 28, 2016

Thunder Bay Inquest jury releases 145 recommendations aimed at the federal, provincial and Thunder Bay governments to improve safety for First Nations students.

October 5, 2016

A Thunder Bay police officer suspended over alleged racist comments against Indigenous peoples posted online. Four other officers are on administrative duties.

APTN National News: Thunder Bay police officer suspended after allegedly making racist comments on Indigenous people

November 3, 2016

The director of the Office of the Independent Police Review Gerry McNeilly announces that he is launching a systemic review of the Thunder Bay police.

APTN National News: Ontario Police watchdog wants input from Indigenous people on review of Thunder Bay police


The terms of reference include:

• Existing policies, practices and attitudes of the Thunder Bay Police Service as they relate specifically to Indigenous missing persons and death investigations, and more generally, to issues around racism-free policing, such as “over-policing” and “under-policing”

• Whether missing persons and death investigations involving Indigenous Peoples are conducted in discriminatory ways

• The adequacy and effectiveness of existing policies and identified best practices relating to the above issues

• The adequacy of training and education provided to supervisors and front-line officers relating to the above issues

• The extent to which compliance with existing policies or identified best practices is monitored and supported

• The extent to which officers are held accountable for non-compliance

• The extent to which the service communicates with Indigenous family members, communities, and their leaders, engages in community outreach or has specialized liaison units

• The extent to which complaints about the service’s interactions with Indigenous Peoples are inhibited by reprisals or fear of reprisals

• Whether policies, practices, training, education, oversight and accountability mechanisms,
and community outreach should be created, modified or enhanced to prevent discriminatory and ineffective policing, particularly in the context of investigations into the disappearances and deaths of Indigenous Peoples


January 31, 2017

Barbara Kentner is hit by a trailer hitch that was thrown from a car. According to some residents, this is not an isolated incident. 

APTN National News: Woman hit by trailer hitch thrown from vehicle not an isolated incident 

May 7, 2017  

Tammy Keeash, 17, from North Caribou Lake First Nation, also known as Weagamow Lake, was found in the reeds by the edge of a Thunder Bay floodway. 

Tammy Keeash, 17, was discovered in a Thunder Bay waterway.

Tammy was discovered in a Thunder Bay floodway in May of 2017. Police initially said no foul play was suspected. In the week following the discovery of her body, Nishnawbe Aski Nation called for her death to be treated as a homicide.

“I think something happened to her. Something more than what cops are telling me,” Pearl Slipperjack, Tammy Keeash’s mother.

APTN National News reporters Willow Fiddler and Kenneth Jackson discovered that according to a church pastor who discovered her, Keeash was found with her pants down. 

APTN National News: Eyewitness contradicts Thunder Bay police account of Tammy Keeash death


May 18, 2017

Josiah Begg, 14, from the Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug Nation. the youngest of the Thunder Bay youths at just 14 years old, went missing the same night as Tammy Keeash but was missing for almost two weeks when his body was found in the McIntyre River by Ontario Provincial Police.


Begg was missing for almost two weeks when his body was found in the McIntyre River by Ontario Provincial Police divers.

He had just arrived in Thunder Bay for appointments with his father shortly before he went missing.

“We are in a lot of pain and sorrow about the outcome and the result when Josiah was found,” Josiah’s grandfather Mike McKay

APTN National News: Thunder Bay police under fire over handling of death and missing First Nations youth

May 23, 2017

Gerry McNeilly, the head of the Office of the Independent Police Review expands his systemic review of the Thunder Bay police to include the deaths of Josiah Begg, 14 and Tammy Keeash, 17.

May 24, 2017

Thunder Bay Police Chief Jean Paul (J.P.) Levesque is charged with obstruction of justice and breach of trust.

APTN National News: Thunder Bay police chief charged with obstruction of justice, breach of trust 


Levesque was charged by the Ontario Provincial Police for disclosing confidential information about Thunder Bay Mayor Keith Hobbs.

May 31, 2017

APTN National News: Evidence from First Nation student who survived Thunder Bay river attack resurfaces following eyewitness claim

June 2, 2017

APTN National News: Did Thunder Bay police botch the investigation into Stephen Banning’s river death? 

June 6, 2017

APTN National News: Donations to Thunder Bay shelter brings everyone to tears

June 7, 2017

Thunder Bay Police Board Chair Jackie Dojack, Interim Thunder Bay Police Chief Sylvie Hauth, and Acting Deputy Chief Don Lewis hold a news conference to discuss the media reports in the city.

APTN National News: There’s no crisis in Thunder Bay and it’s “business as usual” acting police chief says

Acting police chief Sylvie Hauth, centre, speaks at a media conference Wednesday addressing the current situation in Thunder Bay. Police services board Chair Jackie Dojack, left, and acting deputy chief Don Lewis also spoke Wednesday.

According to Dojack and Hauth, there is no crisis and it’s “business as usual.”

On the same day that the Thunder Bay police say it is “business as usual,” APTN National News correspondent Kenneth Jackson publishes a story about condition of Tammy Keeash when she was found. 

APTN National News: Did Tammy Keeash have bite marks on her hand? Her mom thinks so

June 8, 2017

16-year-old Jayden Matthews tells APTN his story about nearly being abducted walking home from the hospital early one morning.

APTN National News: A rock and a bite saved young boy from abduction in Thunder Bay

June 9, 2017

APTN National News: Thunder Bay police ruled out foul play in Jordan Wabasse’s death 2 days before receiving tip suggesting murder

June 10, 2017

APTN correspondent Jorge Barrera interviews former Toronto detective David Perry about the Thunder Bay police and the questions being raised about death investigations. 

APTN National News: Thunder Bay police doesn’t have “competency” for proper death investigations: top detective

June 12, 2017

After APTN National News correspondent Kenneth Jackson posts a picture of graffiti on the side of a via rail car in Thunder Bay – police make an arrest. Glenn Kwandibens, 27 is charged with mischief. Coincidentally, Kwandibens was being interviewed the previous night by Jackson when police walked up and interrupted the interview. 

APTN National News: Thunder Bay man charged with writing “I killed those kids” denies he wrote it

June 13, 2017

Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale says while every Canadian should be concerned about their safety, he will not intervene in Thunder Bay policing situation.

APTN National News: Ottawa concerned with situation in Thunder Bay, but not willing to step in without an invitation 

June 16, 2017

APTN Investigates Correspondents Cullen Crozier airs this episode: To Serve and Protect

Watch: APTN Investigates: To Serve and Protect

June 19, 2017

APTN National News: Death and questions along Thunder Bay’s ‘river of tears’

June 22, 2017

APTN National News: Coroner calls in outside police force to investigate waterway deaths of Begg, Keeash

July 12, 2017

APTN National News: York police visit Begg, Keeash families as Thunder Bay waterway deaths probe enters second week

Barbara Kentner. Facebook photo.

Barbara Kentner. Facebook photo.

APTN National News: Family and friends say goodbye to Barbara Kentner in Thunder Bay

July 20, 2017 

APTN National News: Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit investigating death of First Nations man in Thunder Bay police jail

July 21, 2017 

APTN National News: Extortion charges against Thunder Bay mayor, wife entangled with cases involving police chief, local lawyer 

August 1, 2017

APTN National News: Agreement signed to address escalation of violence, racial tensions in Thunder Bay 

August 22, 2017

APTN National News: Threats force Barbara Kentner’s family from Thunder Bay as death probe continues 

August 23, 2017

APTN National News: Thunder Bay police, governments graded on progress since inquest on students’ deaths

September 12, 2017

APTN National News: Ontario police reviewing 9 #MMIW Thunder Bay cases 

September 25, 2017

APTN National News: Body pulled from Thunder Bay River is a First Nations man

September 26, 2017

APTN National News: Ontario Police watchdog hosts meeting in Thunder Bay to talk about police 

September 28, 2017

APTN National News: Police pull unconscious man from Thunder Bay river

October 30, 2017

APTN News: Barbara Kentner’s family expected to learn Friday if charges upgraded against Brayden Bushby

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2 Responses to “Indigenous Deaths in Thunder Bay: A Timeline”

    Andrea June 27, 2017 at 7:28 pm #

    I hope something will finally happen to end the endemic racism against Indigenous people in Thunder Bay…well all over Canada. As a naive, idealist white girl, I was shocked at the way people treated the Indigenous in Thunder Bay when I arrived in 1981 to go to school. I thought people in Canada weren’t racist. I thought that was a ‘south of the border’ thing.I know things won’t magically change overnight but I hope things will finally start to change.
    Other than speaking up when people make idiotic racist comments, I wish there was more I could do to help.

      Devildog June 27, 2017 at 9:59 pm #

      I honestly, think that nothing can be done by one person. If anything can be done, unfortunately it will have to be at the discretion of the Indigenous peoples reasserting their sovereignty and obligation to defend themselves. Growing up as the child of residential school survivors and seeing my parents make their way in life despite all the obstacles in place through institutionalized and systemic racism.

      It occurred to me that the only way for Indigenous peoples to receive any form of justice is to be left alone on our lands (not the reserve lands but the territories where we still live), in our culture and language and in our institutions (not the INAC system).

      Sure, you can and should cut off all the dollars that the privileged sort believe that we have, but doing so and leaving us alone implies that there would be no economic exploitation of our territories. It would mean that Canada would exist in its current developed framework along the American border and that the north would once more be the domain and jurisdiction of the original peoples.

      This is sovereignty either you can allow us to integrate ourselves within the current political framework on our own accord as a series of cantons with ownership and title to the lands where our ancestors lie, but still remaining part of Canada. Or you can watch us separate and reassert our Independence…