The family of Josiah Begg, the 14-year-old boy who has been missing in Thunder Bay, Ont., for nearly two weeks, says he was the person discovered dead in the McIntyre River on Thursday evening.
Begg was last seen in the city on May 6. He had traveled 600 kilometres to Thunder Bay from the fly-in community of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug with his father to access medical services not available in the First Nation.
"What we have been informed by the chief coroner is that while they have yet to do the post-mortem, everything points in the direction it is in fact him," said Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, after meeting with the family. "The height, the weight. His clothing, his watch, his wallet — everything matches."
The chief coroner's office did not confirm Begg's identification on Friday, saying that arrangements are being made to transport the body pulled from the river to Toronto for autopsy. A spokesperson said an examination should take place over the weekend but could not confirm when the coroner will officially identify the body.
Begg is the second Indigenous teen to be found dead in the McIntyre River system in less than two weeks — and the seventh Indigenous teen whose body turned up in a river in Thunder Bay since 2000.
On May 7, Tammy Keeash, 17, of North Caribou Lake First Nation was found dead in the Neebing-McIntyre Floodway.
That's a fact that can't be ignored, Fiddler said.
"Tammy and Josiah went missing the same evening and that should alarm all of us that there is something definitely wrong in this city and we have to do something about it," he said.
First Nations leaders held a news conference on Wednesday to voice their concerns about the quick conclusion of the Thunder Bay police that Keeash had drowned.
At the same gathering, Begg's mother, Sunshine Winter talked about her bright, outgoing son and pleaded for his safe return home.
Earlier in the week, Thunder Bay police had discouraged First Nations volunteers from searching the river for Begg, saying there was "no evidence" the boy was in the water.
Ontario Provincial Police dive teams and a helicopter arrived in Thunder Bay Wednesday to begin their search for the teen after being contacted by city police. A number of volunteers have also spent the past 13 days searching.
Those efforts were noted on Friday by Mike McKay, one of Josiah Begg's grandfathers.
"We had hoped for a better outcome but it wasn't meant to be," he said. "I just want to thank everyone for helping us out."