Thunder Bay

'No evidence' missing Indigenous teen went into the river, Thunder Bay police say

Police in Thunder Bay, Ont., are discouraging First Nations volunteers from searching the river for Josiah Begg, 14, missing in the city since May 6.

First Nations

Josiah Begg, 14, was last seen in Thunder Bay on May 6. (Thunder Bay Police Service)

Police in Thunder Bay, Ont., are discouraging First Nations volunteers from searching the river for an Indigenous teen who has been missing in the city for more than a week.

Josiah Begg, 14, from the remote community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, was visiting the city for medical appointments when he was last seen on May 6. 

Surveillance video shows the teen was near a bridge over the Neebing-McIntyre floodway in the hours before his disappearance. It's an area that has claimed the lives of five Indigenous people since 2005. Three of them were First Nations teens. A 17-year-old girl was found dead in the river last week.

"There is no evidence that he is in the water," said Ryan Hughes, a staff sergeant with Thunder Bay police.

Hughes said police suspended their ground search after two days while they review more surveillance video, re-interview witnesses who have given conflicting statements and seek assistance from Nishnawbe Aski police in talking to First Nations students who may have had contact with Begg last week before heading home for their summer break.

"Most of the Native kids, we grew up by lakes, rivers... yet you rarely hear of a drowning up north as you do here," says John Fox of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug. (Jody Porter/CBC)
Volunteers continue their search efforts and the Canadian Rangers — reservists from remote northern communities — are looking into searching the river, said John Fox, who is acting as a spokesperson for Begg's family.

Fox said First Nations people are concerned about the river.

'We know what has been happening'

"We know what has been happening with Indigenous people by rivers, and they're reported as drownings," Fox said.

"You have to ask yourself — most of the Native kids, we grow up by lakes and rivers. Most of us know how to swim and we do occasionally drink,  yet you rarely hear of a drowning of young people up north as you do here, particularly in this town," he said.

But Hughes said police continue to treat Begg's disappearance as an active missing persons case.

"Everything points to" finding Begg alive in the city, he said.

Meanwhile, family members, including Begg's siblings are growing increasingly distraught, Fox said.

"One of the saddest things I hear is about the three-year-old little brother, where he is starting to have a sense that something is amiss," Fox said. "He cries for his brother to come home, he says 'I want Joe,' he says 'tell Joe to come home'."

Josiah Begg is described as being five feet, eight inches tall with a slim build. He has short brown hair and brown eyes. He was last seen wearing a red baseball cap, a red hooded sweatshirt and grey and white sweatpants.

Anyone with information is being asked to contact Thunder Bay police at (807) 684-1200 or the NAN Search Command Centre at (807) 630-1982. The command centre is open daily from 9:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, with daily meetings at 10 a.m. ET.