THUNDER BAY – Aboriginal Now – The Ontario Native Women’s Association (ONWA) are pleased with the Ontario Coroner’s decision regarding the deaths of Aboriginal youth across Ontario and, specifically the recent deaths of youth within Thunder Bay.
“ONWA is committed to ensuring a safe environment for Aboriginal women and their families. Until the time comes when it is no longer necessary for families to send their children outside of their community in order to attain an education, they should be able to do so without fear for their safety,” said Betty Kennedy, ONWA Executive Director. “The families of the seven youth who have died in Thunder Bay deserve answers as to what happened to their children and why. We look forward to the truth being uncovered so that a comprehensive strategy can be developed to prevent any more unnecessary deaths from occurring.”
The Chief Coroner, Dr. Andrew McCallum, recently announced a joint inquest into the deaths of seven Aboriginal youths who have died under similar circumstances while attending school in Thunder Bay at the request of Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN).
The students at question were between the ages of 15 and 21 and died under similar circumstances involving Thunder Bay’s McIntyre River between the years 2000 and 2011.
ONWA strongly supports the efforts of NAN in bringing these tragedies to light and requesting the investigation, and is pleased to see the Chief Coroner acknowledge the situation.
Furthermore, at the request of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the Ontario Coroner’s office also began an inquest into the unidentified child and youth deaths linked to Residential Schools. According to McCallum, the search has so far uncovered more than 100 possible cases of previously unidentified deaths.
“We know the long-lasting and detrimental affects that Residential Schools had on Aboriginal families after approximately 150,000 children were forced to leave their homes and were consequently stripped of their culture,” explained Kennedy. “The unfortunate reality is that far too many of those children never returned home. We are pleased that the province is finally acknowledging what happened and are working towards uncovering the truth and providing full disclosure. We look forward to the ongoing efforts of Coroner’s office and hope the results will provide some long-overdue closure for the countless families who fell victim to the system.”