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Father of missing Thunder Bay man has been searching the northern Ontario bush for 50 straight days

It's been nearly two months since 27-year-old Dean Mattinas Jr. was last seen leaving Constance Lake First Nation in northern Ontario on foot, headed toward Thunder Bay. His father has been searching for him every day since, but family members say they've become increasingly concerned.

Dean Mattinas Jr. last seen March 18 on Highway 11 near Constance Lake First Nation

A person wearing a white t-shirt, jeans and a baseball cap is seen sitting on a porch, smiling.

Dean Mattinas Sr. has been going out into the northern Ontario bush every day for 50 days to search for his 27-year-old son.

Dean Mattinas Jr., a member of Whitesand First Nation who lives in Thunder Bay, was last seen on March 18, walking near the bush line along Highway 11 about six kilometres west of Constance Lake First Nation around 9:30 a.m. There have been no confirmed sightings of him since.

Mattinas Jr.'s father and much of his family are from Constance Lake. Mattinas Sr. said his son was hitchhiking to Thunder Bay but never got there. Police are still investigating his disappearance.

In the meantime, his dad isn't sitting still.

"I'm always looking, looking, looking and trying to look for clues that he's still around, looking for maybe a jacket, or sweater, or socks or a bag," he said.

Mattinas Jr. is described as:

  • Five-foot-10 with an athletic build.
  • Black hair, brown eyes and a thin moustache with slight sideburns.
  • Last seen wearing a camouflage-pattern or beige jacket, blue jeans and brown boots, and possibly carrying a black Under Armour tote bag and/or brown backpack.

He was originally reported missing to the Nishnawbe Aski Police Service (NAPS) in late March. Since then, the investigation has been taken over by Ontario Provincial Police's North East Region.

OPP Const. Kyler Brouwer of the James Bay detachment told CBC News on Thursday that there have been no substantial updates on the case since the last police news release on April 25.

Thunder Bay is some 500 kilometres southwest of Constance Lake, about a 5½-hour drive along Highway 11 to Highway 17. Nearly 900 people live in the Oji-Cree community, which is part of Treaty 9.

Support from Cat Lake First Nation

On the day of Mattinas Jr.'s disappearance, there was a snowstorm.

Since then, his dad has been out regardless of the weather. He leaves home in the morning and looks around Constance Lake First Nation before coming back to pick up his other sons from school. Then, he's back out again.

Now that it's warmer outside, he's been going out on an ATV.

"It's very scary sometimes, being out there by yourself," he said about searching the bush.

At the end of April, a team of trackers from Cat Lake First Nation arrived to aid the family's search efforts. The trackers showed the family how to document their searches using GPS data and the CalTopo mapping app.

The Cat Lake team is expected to return to Constance Lake next week. Mattinas Sr. said the family is grateful for their support.

Still, the family hopes to get more boots on the ground as they conduct their own searches. A Facebook group called Search for Dean JR Mattinas had 140 members at publication time.

Searching the highway a 'challenge': NAN

Constance Lake is part of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, a political-territorial organization that represents 49 First Nations across Treaties 9 and 5.

Michael Heintzman, NAN's director of communications, provided an emailed statement to CBC News on Thursday about Mattinas Jr.'s disappearance.

The search has been very difficult and we acknowledge the family's frustration.​​​​​

– Michael Heintzman, NAN's director of communications

"We are very concerned about Dean Mattinas and we pray for his safe return. Searching this long stretch of highway has been a tremendous challenge. The search has been very difficult and we acknowledge the family's frustration," Heintzman said

"Our crisis response team has supported search efforts by providing supplies including reflective vests, flashlights, maps, hats, socks, mitts, radios, groceries for meals for the searchers and the family."

Heintzman said NAN's crisis co-ordinators assisted with a search from April 10 to 13 and set up a command centre at the community hall. Since then, NAN has "co-ordinated ongoing supports with community staff and Matawa First Nations Management, while others have worked directly with the family."

"NAN has supported many searches for missing community members across northwestern Ontario. Our crisis response staff do the best they can to respond and support when requested with limited resources," Heintzman said.

'He's a family boy'

It is unlike Mattinas Jr. to not be in contact with his family, said Tracy Bois, Mattinas Sr.'s partner.

"He's a family boy," she said. "He was working. He was independent. He was on the right track."

This week, Mattinas Sr. and his youngest sons spelled out a message in a field with pieces of wood that says: "Dean WRU (where are you)."

The family also lit a sacred fire in his honour.

After weeks of searching, Mattinas Sr. said his eyes have started to play tricks on him. His sisters have also been involved in the search and it's been exhausting for everyone.

"Just like looking for a needle in a haystack," Bois said.

The OPP asks anyone with information about Mattinas Jr.'s whereabouts to contact the police at 1-888-310-1122. Those who wish to remain anonymous can contact Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477 or by going online at ontariocrimestoppers.ca.

Police also encourage anyone who may have dashcam footage from the Constance Lake area of Highway 11, from the morning of March 17 to the evening of March 18, to get in touch.


Sarah Law


Sarah Law is a CBC News reporter based in Thunder Bay, Ont., and has also worked for newspapers and online publications elsewhere in the province. Have a story tip? You can reach her at sarah.law@cbc.ca

    Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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