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New probes recommended into deaths of another 14 Indigenous people in Thunder Bay

Cases go back as far as 2006.
Thunder Bay Police Service station

THUNDER BAY — A team of investigators that included officers from several outside law enforcement agencies is recommending new probes into the deaths of 14 more Indigenous people in Thunder Bay.

The Blended Investigative Team (BIT) says the Thunder Bay Police investigations into these deaths – going as far back as 2006 – appear to be less than complete and show a lack of consistency and accuracy.

The BIT's conclusions were initially reported Monday by APTN, which said its story was based on a confidential report.

The team was established out of a recommendation from the Office of the Independent Police Review Director's Broken Trust report in 2019.

That report initially found shortcomings in the TBPS investigations into the deaths of nine Indigenous people between 2000 and 2017. Those cases have been re-investigated, but the results have not yet been made public.

In its examination of Thunder Bay Police Service records, the BIT cited a lack of Major Case Management in some complex death investigations, and an absence of background checks on individuals.

Its report expresses concern about the "number of sudden death investigations that remain open, manner of deaths unresolved, lack of medical documentation and cause of death" in the police records.

The BIT also found cases in which coroners did not attend death scenes or order postmortem examinations to determine cause of death.

It said it "appears that coroners and investigators are making premature comments on no foul play and releasing scenes before a post-morten exam is complete in some suspicious death investigations."

As well, the report notes that in some cases postmortem reports (with toxicology) do not appear to have been forwarded to the TBPS by the Office of the Chief Coroner.

Besides recommending police-led further investigations into the 14 cases, the BIT calls for a coroner's review of one vulnerable missing person case where the deceased was Indigenous.

It said TBPS has confirmed there are 25 missing or murdered Indigenous women and girls cases, some predating 2000. The BIT did not review these, but wanted to bring these cases forward for consideration for possible review.

The team also calls for a coroner's review of one fatal drug overdose case, saying analysts had seen a large volume of fatal drug-related sudden death cases in Thunder Bay.


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