THUNDER BAY – There have been seven young people who have gone missing and then been found dead in Thunder Bay since 2000. Those deaths have lead to a call from Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose for a Commission of Inquiry. “A Commission of Inquiry is the only way to fully investigate the circumstances surrounding these tragic deaths and to find ways to prevent similar tragedies from happening again,” said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Terry Waboose. “Last week’s ruling confirms what we have suspected for years – that First Nations have been systematically excluded from the justice system. Even if an inquest into the death of Reggie Bushie could be convened, two more of our youth have died since 2007 and there is no inquest that is designed to address all seven deaths.”
The call for a Commission of Inquiry comes in the wake of last week’s ruling by the coroner in the Bushie Inquest that the inquest cannot proceed as the 2011 jury roll is legally invalid.
Reggie Bushie, 15, died in 2007 while attending school at Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay. His body was recovered from the McIntyre River on November 1, 2007 and an inquest into his death was scheduled to begin in January 2009. The inquest was delayed, however, after NAN and legal counsel for the Bushie family questioned the validity of the selection process for the five-member jury.
While the death of Reggie Bushie was to be the focus of the inquest, the deaths of four other NAN youth who died in Thunder Bay under similar circumstances were to be considered as part of the overall context. Since then, two more NAN youth – Kyle Morriseau, 17, and Jordan Wabasse, 15 – have also died in Thunder Bay under similar circumstances.
“The patterns in these deaths are troubling and simply can’t be ignored. It is clear that if the truth is to come out about the deaths of these seven youth nothing short of a Commission of Inquiry will suffice,” said Julian Falconer, NAN’s legal counsel. “Since 2008, it has become increasingly apparent that the problem of the systematic exclusion of First Nations from the justice system was far more serious than what the public were told. The truth is coming out and various proceedings are coming to a standstill. This makes the Iacobucci review all the more important. It is up to this government to provide First Nations with a process that will credibly look at all seven deaths – the Inquest System can’t do it.”
On August 11, 2011, the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General announced the appointment of former Supreme Court Justice, the Honourable Frank Iacobucci, to inquire into and report on First Nation representation on Ontario jury rolls. The review will report on any relevant legislation and process including First Nations persons living on-reserve on the jury roll, from which potential jurors are selected for all jury trials and coroners’ inquests.