Tag Archives: Inquest

Family, Friends of Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace Continue Push For Inquest A Year After Her Death

Family, friends and community members walked through Kenora in memory of Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace on Monday, April 17, which marked a year since the 14-year-old Grassy Narrows First Nation teenager’s body was found across the street from the Lake of the Woods District Hospital after a two-day search. The Winnipeg-based community group Urban Warrior Alliance and members of the Winnipeg Bear Clan Patrol marched in support. Kathleen Charlebois/Daily Miner and News

By Kathleen Charlebois | Miner and News, April 18, 2017

Braeden Kokopenace held up a picture of his twin sister emblazoned with the words “We will not forget” and “#Justice4Azraya” for all to see during a march in her memory.

He and Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace’s family, friends and community members from Grassy Narrows First Nation walked from Knox United Church to the wooded site across from the Lake of the Woods District Hospital where Azraya’s body was found after a two-day search a year ago on April 17. She disappeared from the hospital after police brought her there.  Friends, family and provincial representatives continue to press for inquest into her death.

Braeden said Azraya was “a sweet girl” who he loved and cared for. “I want justice for my sister,” he said during a press conference at the vigil. “She didn’t deserve to be treated like that by police.”

He referred to a video that showed a Kenora OPP officer in an altercation with Azraya a few weeks before her death, and he said he believes the incident impacted her badly. “I think it put fear into our community,” he said.

Braeden also said both youth and elders have been mourning for her in the year since her death. “Justice for my sister would mean answers about what happened to her and improving the system so less suicides take place,” he said.

Azraya’s aunt Lorenda Kokopenace said her niece’s death has been difficult to bear and the system “really failed all of them.”

She said she feels like the Anishinaabe Abinoojii Family Services, who had Azraya in their custody, is another kind of residential school system.

“That stuff needs to stop, and we need to all work together and quit sending our kids away,” Lorenda said. “She wanted to come home and they ignored that.”
Irwin Elman, the provincial advocate for children and youth in Ontario, said he has written in the past to the regional supervising coroner, Dr. Michael Wilson, to ask for an inquest.

Wilson said last October that the involvement of Child Protective Services adds “additional elements” to his investigation and requires more time, although Kenora Rainy-River MPP Sarah Campbell and Azraya’s family say an inquest is legally required as Azraya was in police custody when she died.

“A coroner’s inquest will investigate and explain circumstances around Azraya’s death and will provide us with the first step that we need to go forward so we can prevent the further loss of Indigenous youth,” Campbell said.

After walking through Kenora, marchers visited the memorial site across from the hospital, where they lit candles and put down tobacco.

Azraya’s friend Kyra Fobister shared that she often visits her friend’s grave in her home community and talks and plays songs they both like.

“We as a whole deserve to know the truth,” she said. “It may not bring her back but it’s our only way to cope with everyday life without her.”


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Jurors: Deaths Of Four First Nations Youth Undetermined; Three Accidental

The seven students who have died in Thunder Bay since 2000 are, from top left, Jethro Anderson, 15, Curran Strang, 18, Paul Panacheese, 17, Robyn Harper, 18, Reggie Bushie, 15, Kyle Morriseau, 17, and Jordan Wabasse, 15. (CBC)

The seven students who have died in Thunder Bay since 2000 are, from top left, Jethro Anderson, 15, Curran Strang, 18, Paul Panacheese, 17, Robyn Harper, 18, Reggie Bushie, 15, Kyle Morriseau, 17, and Jordan Wabasse, 15. (CBC)

The Canadian Press, June 29, 2016

The deaths of four First Nations youth who moved from their remote northern Ontario reserves to attend high school in Thunder Bay, Ont., occurred in an undetermined manner, an inquest jury decided Tuesday.

Three other deaths examined at the months-long inquest were deemed accidental, the packed courtroom heard.

Jethro Anderson, 15, Curran Strang, 18, Robyn Harper, 19, Paul Panacheese, 21, Reggie Bushie, 15, Kyle Morrisseau, 17 and Jordan Wabasse, also 15, all died between November 2000 and May 2011.

“All seven were beloved children who died tragically and prematurely and lost the opportunity to lead their own lives, raise their own families and make their own valuable contribution,” said presiding coroner, Dr. David Eden.

The death of Panacheese, who collapsed at his boarding house, was found to be undetermined. Harper was found dead of acute alcohol poisoning at her boarding home the morning after she went out drinking with friends. She had been in the city just two days. Her death was ruled an accident.

The drowned bodies of the other five were all found in or near rivers in the city. In four of the drowning cases, alcohol played a role.

The deaths of Anderson, Morrisseau and Wabasse were deemed undetermined — meaning jurors could not decide how they got into the rivers — while those of Strang and Bushie were ruled accidental.

Julian Falconer, lawyer for the Nishnawbe Aski Nation from whose communities the young people came, called the verdicts related to some of those who drowned significant.

“‘Undetermined’ in respect of three of five of the drowning deaths sends a clear message that the police investigations were deeply flawed,” Falconer said. “Consequently, tragically, there is no way to rule out that these kids were deliberately killed.”

Jurors called for development of policies on dealing with missing students, including the timely filing of missing-person reports, the use of social media in subsequent searches, and training for Thunder Bay police in investigating such cases.

Lawyer Brian Gover, who represented the police, said it’s easy to be critical in hindsight but noted the service had already made many improvements in its processes.

“The cases took place over 11 years, and in the course of those 11 years, the Thunder Bay Police Service adapted its response to the problem of missing First Nation youths,” Gover said.

In all, jurors made 145 recommendations in 18 broad areas aimed at preventing a recurrence — most directed at the federal and Ontario governments. They include a call for more funding for aboriginal education with the aim of closing the gap between native and non-native students regarding educational outcomes within 10 years.

“To ensure sufficient and stable funding for First Nations education, Canada and First Nations should jointly develop a new and fully transparent funding framework for First Nations education that is based on actual student needs,” jurors recommended.

Other recommendations were aimed at ensuring aboriginal students receive proper supports while at high school in Thunder Bay, including access to substance-abuse treatment and programs. Jurors also called for an end to “runners,” people who buy alcohol for under-age drinkers.

The five jurors also recommended educating students on the UN Declaration of the Rights of a Child and the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They essentially adopted several of the TRC’s recommendations, among them enhancing aboriginal content in the school curriculum.

Reports on the recommendations should happen annually until all have been implemented or rejected, jurors said.

“The findings are crucial to understanding the underlying issues that our youth are faced with when attending school in urban centres,” said Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day.

Six of the seven youths went to Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School, while the seventh attended the Matawa Learning Centre.

The inquest, which began last October, heard from about 150 witnesses.

“There remains much work for all of us to do to ensure indigenous people are treated fairly and with respect for their culture and traditions,” Eden said.

Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett welcomed the jury findings.

“This report shines a light on a terrible and preventable tragedy,” Bennett said in a statement.

“We understand and agree that there are large and systemic issues at play which led to these tragic losses of life.”

Ontario’s chief coroner had initially called an inquest into Bushie’s death. Like some of the others, he was found drowned in the McIntyre River in 2007. However, the process ground to a halt in 2008 due in part to a legal challenge related to the lack of aboriginal people on coroner’s juries that went all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada.


Activists Call For Inquest Into Death Of Winnipeg Remand Centre Inmate

Errol Green with his son Darien. Green was the father of three and his wife, Rochelle Pranteau, is expecting their fourth in the fall. (Courtesy of Rochelle Pranteau)

Errol Green with his son Darien. Green was the father of three and his wife, Rochelle Pranteau, is expecting their fourth in the fall. (Courtesy of Rochelle Pranteau)

Urban Warrior Alliance wants WRC to review protocols around access to medication for people in custody

May 12, 2016

Community activists in Winnipeg are calling for an inquest into the death of Errol Green, a 26-year-old father of three, after he was detained in the Winnipeg Remand Centre (WRC) for three days without his epilepsy medication.

“I can just envision what he was going through. I was sick in jail myself, years ago, and it was the same. Neglect in jail,” said Harrison Friesen-Powder, a member of Urban Warrior Alliance, a grassroots activist group in Winnipeg.

Friesen-Powder said he saw first hand the difficulty in accessing medical help while in custody at the WRC. A family member who is currently incarcerated was also denied prescription medicine for a diagnosed mental illness, he said.

Guys will wait for days to see a doctor– Harrison Friesen-Powder

“Normally you go into the jail, you go to intake, they ask you medical questions. Then you have to request forms to ask to see a doctor, to get your medication and then that takes time whether it’s 24, 48, 72 hours longer. Guys will wait for days to see a doctor,” said Friesen-Powder.

Stories of mistreatment and neglect are common within correctional systems, according to Friesen-Powder, who said he hears those types of stories all the time. While some of the mistreatment is related to race, the denial of medication is a systemic problem, he said.

“The issue is there’s a gap or something not working in their system as far as how they’re handling inmates. Whether it’s physical illness or mental illness, it all goes back down to the medication and the treatment of inmates in general,” said Friesen-Powder.

The Winnipeg Remand Centre has not provided a spokesperson on its protocols surrounding inmate access to medication despite requests from CBC.

Errol Green with his daughters, Precious (5) and Saige (7). (Courtesy of Rochelle Pranteau)

Errol Green with his daughters, Precious (5) and Saige (7). (Courtesy of Rochelle Pranteau)

A rally for Errol Green in front of the Winnipeg Remand Centre is planned for Friday at 1 p.m. Through the rally, Urban Warrior Alliance wants to bring awareness to the mistreatment of inmates and show support for Green’s family, said Friesen-Powder.


First Nation Student Deaths Inquest: 5 Things Revealed So Far



CBC News

Testimony so far shows lack of communication with families, and challenges faced by students

The inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations students in Thunder Bay, Ont., begins its fifth week of testimony on Monday with a continued focus on students whose bodies were found in waterways in the city.

Pathologists testified during the first week of the inquest that five of the students — Jethro Anderson, Curran Strang, Reggie Bushie, Kyle Morrisseau and Jordan Wabasse — died by drowning, but questions remain about how the teens ended up in the water.

Evidence about Jethro Anderson’s death is expected to wrap up on Monday with the inquest turning its attention to Curran Strang’s death for the remainder of the week.

The first weeks of testimony dealt with the deaths of Paul Panacheese, who mysteriously collapsed as a 21-year-old student in 2006 andRobyn Harper,18, who died in 2007 of alcohol poisoning in her boarding home.

Here are five things revealed at the inquest so far:

1. Mothers received no official information about the deaths of their children

All three mothers who have testified so far — Maryanne Panacheese, Tina Harper and Stella Anderson — told the inquest that neither police nor the coroner talked to them about how their children died.

Harper and Panacheese said it was only through the inquest that they learned what officials knew about the deaths.

Ontario’s Chief Coroner, Dr. Dirk Huyer, testified on Oct. 30, that communication with families is “something we’re striving to overcome” as a death investigation service.

2. First Nations students struggle with racism in the city

Several former students have testified about the incidents of racism they experienced while attending high school in Thunder Bay.

Skye Kakekagumick, from Keewaywin First Nation, testified that several times, food was thrown at her from passing vehicles and people made a war-whooping noise and yelled things such as “stupid savage, go back home.'”

3. Teens’ alcohol use fuelled by loneliness

Friends of both Robyn Harper and Jethro Anderson testified the teens were drinking before they died.

Kakekagumick told inquest jurors that she used alcohol to cope with the racism and loneliness she experienced in the city.

“I made friends like that too, and everyone around me,” she testified. “I guess we were just taking the easy way. We didn’t know any other way. We were just kids.”

4. Police response questioned

Dora Morris, the aunt and boarding home parent of Jethro Anderson testified that she was told by police that the boy was “just out there partying like any native kid”, when she reported him missing.

The inquest heard that police issued a news release saying no foul play was suspected in Anderson’s death before a post-mortem was complete.

A police officer testified Thunder Bay police did not launch a criminal investigation into Anderson’s disappearance until six days after he was reported missing.

“The police have a tendency to default to a drowning and liquor scenario, literally, almost automatically,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation lawyer Julian Falconer.

5. Families may not get all the answers they’re seeking from the inquest

Jethro Anderson’s mother, Stella, fled the court room in tears when a police officer testified about a tip he received that Anderson had been murdered.

The officer later testified that he deemed the tip not credible and an investigation was not pursued, but the information came as a shock to family members.

Anderson’s lawyer, Christa Big Canoe, says the inquest process is not designed to provide exact details about the deaths.

“You’re never going to get a perfect answer but learning all the components and different parts of the story will help the family understand more,” Big Canoe said.

The inquest is scheduled to resume at 10 a.m. on Monday. Click here for live coverage on Twitter by @cbcreporter from the inquest.

Follow the inquest at www.cbc.ca 

First Nations Student Deaths Inquest: Families Look For Answers

Jethro Anderson of Kasabonika Lake First Nation died in 2000 while attending high school in Thunder Bay. He was 15. (CBC)

Jethro Anderson of Kasabonika Lake First Nation died in 2000 while attending high school in Thunder Bay. He was 15. (CBC)

Article source: CBC News, Posted: Sep 29, 2015

The families of some of the First Nations students, whose deaths will be the subject of an inquest starting Oct. 5 in Thunder Bay, Ont., are expressing their hopes and fears about the process.

The mothers of Paul Panacheese, Jordan Wabasse and Jethro Anderson issued statements on Wednesday, through their lawyer.

All of their sons, along with four other teens — Curran Strang, Robyn Harper, Reggie Bushie and Kyle Morriseau — died after leaving home to attend high school in Thunder Bay. The inquest will investigate the circumstances surrounding their deaths and make recommendations for preventing other similar deaths in the future.

“Half of me wants to know what happened to Jethro, and the other half of me wants to leave it alone,” said Anderson’s mother Stella, adding that her “heart shattered into a million pieces” when she heard Jethro’s body was found in 2000. He was 15.

“A lot has happened over the past fifteen years, I have made positive life changes,” she said. “I miss Jethro every day and the thought of learning more about his death is frightening and brings up old wounds that have been slowly healing.”

Long wait

The inquest was first called in 2012 but problems with Ontario’s jury roll system and the volume of evidence delayed its start until this year.

Jordan Wabasse

Jordan Wabasse from Webequie First Nation died while attending school in Thunder Bay. He was 15. (CBC)

Bernice Jacobs, the mother of Jordan Wabasse, said she is glad it is finally moving ahead “so that families do not have to wait or hold off on planning their lives because that’s what it feels like we have been doing.”

The start of the inquest will present new emotional challenges, the mothers said.

“It will be too difficult for some family members to attend.” Maryanne Panacheese said. “I personally have to attend to honour Paul and the other students.

“Paul wanted better for First Nation students,” she said. “He wanted them to be able attend school to access a better system and get better education. Because I know this is how Paul felt, I agreed to participate in this inquest.”

Paul Panacheese

Paul Panacheese, from Mishkeegogamang First Nation died in 2006 while attending school in Thunder Bay. He was 21. (CBC)

‘I just can’t let him go’

Jacobs also hopes the inquest results in improvements to First Nations education. Her two other sons are attending high school at home in Webequie, where she said the course choices are limited and there is no science lab, art courses, technical shops or gymnasium.

She said one of her boys wants to come to Thunder Bay for school, but after Jordan’s death at 15 in 2011, “I just can’t let him go,” she said.

Panacheese has another, more personal hope for the inquest. Her son Paul died in 2006. He was 21. Maryanne said she still does not know the cause of death.

Some reports have said he died of an overdose but “there is uncertainty in relation to Paul’s death and whether heart complications had a role in his death,” according to a statement from her lawyer.

“It has been almost nine years and we are still waiting for some answers,” Panacheese said. “It is our hope that the inquest will help us to understand more.”