THUNDER BAY – Nishnawbe Aski Nation’s grand chief says now is not the time to speculate on what caused the death of 17-year-old Braiden Jacob.
But Alvin Fiddler promised he will continue to push for counselling services to be made available in NAN’s remote fly-in communities.
The teen, whose body was recovered on Sunday in Chapples Park, died while in the city for grief counselling, according to an APTN report.
“I’m not really sure, at this time, in terms of the circumstances that may have led to Braiden’s death. I think what we’re focused on right now is that now that the search is done, now that he’s been found, we’re focusing on his family – his mother, his siblings, his grandparents, to make sure they have the supports they need to get through the next few days,” Fiddler said during a brief media availability on Monday afternoon.
Jacob was last seen on Thursday afternoon in the Limbrick Street area. His mother, Beverly, took to Facebook, pleading for help to find him when he didn’t return.
Police cordoned off a section of Chapples Park on Sunday after a passerby reported stumbling across a body, which was later confirmed by family members as the missing teen.
He’s the 10th Indigenous youth to die in Thunder Bay under suspicious circumstances since 2000. In 2016 an inquest wrapped up looking into the deaths of seven youths – Jethro Anderson, Curran Strang, Paul Panacheese, Robyn Harper, Reggie Bushie, Kyle Morrisseau and Jordan Wabasse, whose body was recovered from the Kaministiquia River months after he died.
Last year 17-year-old Tammy Keeash and 14-year-old Josiah Begg disappeared and later turned up dead.
Fiddler said he’s been advocating for counselling services to be provided within NAN communities for the past several years, through the Choose Life initiative and work with the Human Rights Tribunal.
“That’s a work in progress and something I feel strongly should be a choice for every youth or child in their communities that if they want to access these types of services, that they should be made available at home,” Fiddler said.
The grand chief, asked if the he’s fearful the death could be a homicide, as some family members have suggested on social media, said it’s too early to speculate.
“All I know is the family did meet with the police yesterday, late last night actually, to get confirmation that the body that was recovered earlier in the day was in fact Braiden,” Fiddler said. “But also to let the family know in terms of the next steps in their investigation, and that’s the post-mortem.”
Thunder Bay Police on Monday said the post-mortem is scheduled for Wednesday and expect to know more information once it has been completed. As a precaution, they continue to hold the scene. Investigators are looking for witnesses who might have noticed any suspicious activity in the Chapples Park area to contact them at 684-1200, or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477, online at www.p3tips.com.
The city's newly elected Mayor Bill Mauro issued a statement of condolences to Jacob’s family.
“On behalf of city council and the citizens of Thunder Bay, we offer our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to Braiden’s family, friends and the community of Webequie First Nation. Thunder Bay grieves with you,” Mauro said in a release.
“We would like to thank everyone who took part in the search for Braiden including the volunteers and members of the Thunder Bay Police Service. We are saddened beyond words and stand with you at this most difficult time.”