TORONTO- A teenager from a northern Ontario First Nation who had travelled to Thunder Bay for grief and trauma counselling was found dead in a city park over the weekend, days after he went missing, Indigenous leaders said Monday.
The grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, an organization representing First Nation communities in northern Ontario, said police found the body of 17-year-old Braiden Jacob on Sunday.
Alvin Fiddler offered condolences to Jacob’s family and the Webequie First Nation — where the teen was from — and said he hoped a police probe would shed more light on what happened.
“Nothing can lessen this tragic loss, but we hope that a thorough investigation will reveal the circumstances around his disappearance and help prevent similar tragedies,” he said.
Ontario Regional Chief RoseAnne Archibald said Jacob had been in Thunder Bay to receive counselling for trauma and grief.
“Clearly, our funding partners must continue the ongoing work of increasing essential mental health services directly in First Nation communities,” she said in a statement.
“While we do not know the full details of Braiden’s disappearance, we do know the loss of life and the lost potential of young people, like Braiden, is an ongoing tragedy that must be addressed with real on-the-ground solutions in Thunder Bay.”
Jacob’s death was raised in Parliament by NDP legislator Charlie Angus, who noted the teen was one of several Indigenous youth who have died in Thunder Bay after having to leave their home communities to receive services. He asked the government if it would commit an RCMP team to work with Indigenous leaders to probe the root cause of such deaths.
Minister of Indigenous Services Jane Philpott said the federal government had made significant investments in mental-health care in the area of the Webequie First Nation.
“We will continue to make those investments. This is for all Canadians to work together to bring justice and ensure the safety of Indigenous youth,” she said. “Our hearts go out to the family of Braiden.”
Jacob was last seen on Dec. 6 and police had appealed to the public for help finding him. Police said Monday that they were investigating a death in a city park and said an autopsy was being conducted to identify the body.