Indigenous deaths prompt increased police patrols near river in Thunder Bay, Ont.
Three First Nations people have been found dead in, or near the McIntyre River since October
Thunder Bay police are increasing patrols near the McIntyre River where three First Nations boys were found dead between 2005 and 2009 and three more Indigenous people have died in recent months.
The increased police vigilance comes in response to a recommendation from a coroner's inquest into the boys' deaths, and those of four other First Nations students in the northwestern Ontario city.
The inquest ruled the cause of two of the deaths in the McIntyre River was undetermined, leaving the door open to a theory that the students may have been pushed into the water.
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"We are stepping up patrols of the McIntyre River area," Thunder Bay police spokesperson Chris Adams said. "Where possible, given calls for service, officers will include this area for patrol during their shifts."
But fears remain about the safety of young, or vulnerable First Nations people in the city, particularly near the McIntyre River.
- The body of Stacy DeBungee, of Rainy River First Nations was pulled from the McIntyre River on Oct. 19, 2015.
- Christina Gliddy, of Wunnumin Lake First Nation, was found dead on the bike path beside the river on March 29, 2016.
- The body of Clayton Mawakeesic, of Sandy Lake First Nation, was discovered in the McIntyre River on July 29, 2016.
A man has now been charged in connection with the most recent death, of Clayton Mawakeesic. A statement from police on Saturday August 6, 2016 said Lawrence Peter Beardy, 34, has been charged with Manslaughter. Police said Beardy was reportedly with a group of people on the shore of the floodway on the evening of Mawakeesic's death and had allegedly had an altercation with the victim just prior to his death in the water. The two men were known to each other. Beardy is to appear in court Monday, August 8, 2016.
Of the three deaths, police have said only Mawakeesic's death was suspicious, but Debungee's family believes his death was not an accident.
The inquest recommended that the City of Thunder Bay, Thunder Bay police and First Nations work together to conduct a safety audit of areas, such as the McIntyre River, where Indigenous youth congregate at night.
"Some possible responses to identified issues could include improved lighting, emergency button poles, under-bridge barricades, or increased police patrols," the recommendation says.
Inquest jurors said the work should be done "as soon as practicable."
A spokesperson for the city said the inquest recommendations are being considered and action plans could be expected "in the months and weeks to come."