Anishinabek Nation calls on the Thunder Bay Police Service to fully implement the report: Broken Trust

ANISHINABEK NATION HEAD OFFICE (January 16, 2024) – The Anishinabek Nation condemns the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) in their handling of a case that resulted in the death of a First Nation woman.

On December 30, 2023, a 9-1-1 call was placed from an address in Thunder Bay to respond to a domestic situation. The TBPS ultimately did not respond to the initial call and did not go to the address until it was reported that someone had died. Subsequently, 21-year-old Jenna Ostberg from Bearskin Lake First Nation was pronounced deceased. The Special Investigations Unit is now investigating the handling of the case by the TBPS.

“We send our deepest condolences to the family and all those who knew Jenna,” states Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Reg Niganobe. “As we await the findings from the Special Investigations Unit, we feel the collective grief that reverberates across our territories. We are deeply saddened and disappointed in the negligent behaviour displayed by the Thunder Bay Police Service.”

The TBPS has a history of negligence towards the Indigenous population in the northern city. Systemic racism within the police force has been highlighted multiple times, including most recently in the 2018 report Broken Trust: Indigenous People and the Thunder Bay Police Service, conducted by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director.

Despite the TBPS committing to achieving the recommendations of the report, Indigenous peoples continue to be gravely impacted by both the actions and inactions of the police service. Following this latest tragic event, the TBPS released a statement pleading with the Special Investigations Unit to ensure transparency, “to safeguard trust between police members and the community members we serve.”

“We are disheartened at this response from the TBPS as its statement detracts from the accountability of how it handled this case. If the TBPS is concerned about safeguarding trust with the community, it would put more effort into fully implementing recommendations from reports such as the Reclaiming Power and Place: The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls,” states Anishinabek Nation Northern Superior Deputy Grand Council Chief Mel Hardy.

The Special Investigations Unit has since released a statement with limited information on its preliminary findings. We are requesting that the Special Investigations Unit maintain confidentiality of the investigation until it is fully complete. Last week, the family of Ms. Ostberg had expressed their wishes to maintain privacy as they grieve and await the results.