Only Four Seats for Seven Deaths in Thunder Bay Inquest

The Thunder Bay Court House was seen by some as a solution for downtown Fort William

The Thunder Bay Court House was seen by some as a solution for downtown Fort William
The Thunder Bay Court House

THUNDER BAY – EDITORIAL – A long awaited inquest into the death of seven First Nation youth who died in Thunder Bay starts this week. The inquest has been delayed several times.

Now the inquest is set to start. Jethro Anderson, Curran Strang, Paul Panacheese, Robyn Harper, Reggie Bushie, Kyle Morriseau and Jordan Wabasse were all students who travelled to Thunder Bay to attend high school. They arrived in our community to try to reach their dreams.

They died in our city.

The families and friends of the students are seeking answers.

Yet to attend this long awaited inquest, Timmins James Bay Member of Parliament Charlie Angus states there will only be four seats open to the public. That includes the families of the dead students. The inquest will be live-streamed, but to finally hold the inquest and not be prepared for the reality that families and the public, especially the Anishinaabe population will want to follow it closely is a strong message of failure from Ontario.

Christie Blatchford, writing in the National Post states, “Yet despite pleas from NAN and its Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, Postmedia and even Ontario Chief Coroner Dirk Huyer himself, the best venue provincial judicial officials have been able to muster is courtroom 501, which has little room for any member of the public, including potentially the dead youths’ families, or press.

“It effectively sends a signal that inquests are a second-rate form of justice, that public access isn’t a priority and, most gratingly, that Aboriginal lives appear to matter less.”

It is hard to argue with the thoughts expressed by the National Post writer.

Across Northern Ontario First Nation Communities, Thunder Bay has become a place that grandparents and parents worry a lot when their children are attending school here.

Despite all the efforts of First Nations, school officials and community leaders, those young students lost their dreams.

That the long-awaited inquest is going to be so inaccessible is sending a sad message about just how much the lives of those students mean.

Ontario can do so much better.

James Murray