Inquests into Deaths of Seven Anishinaabe Youth Announced in Thunder Bay

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Dennis Franklin Cromarty Orientation includes the memorial walk and service.

Students on the DFC Memorial Walk
DFC Students on the memorial walk to the river

THUNDER BAY – NEWS – Dr. Dirk Huyer, Chief Coroner for Ontario, today announced that a date has been scheduled for the inquest into the deaths of:

  • Jethro Anderson, 15
  • Curran Strang, 18
  • Paul Panacheese, 21
  • Robyn Harper, 19
  • Kyle Morrisseau, 17
  • Jordan Wabasse, 15
  • Reggie Bushie, 15

Jordan Wabasse NANThe inquest will examine the circumstances surrounding the deaths of these youths who died after leaving their remote home communities to pursue secondary school in Thunder Bay.  The jury may make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths in the future.

The inquest is expected to hear from approximately 200 witnesses between October 2015 and March 2016.

The inquest will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 5, 2015, at a location yet to be determined in Thunder Bay.   Dr. David Eden will preside as inquest coroner and Trevor Jukes, Karen Shea and Amy Leamen will be counsel to the coroner.

The inquest will be streamed live on the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services website.

Ontario Regional Chief Day – It’s About Time!!!”

“The Ontario Government announcement to the seven deaths of Anishinabe Youth is a welcomed commitment. In order to begin the very important process of ‘fact finding to find solutions’ we needed to ensure that a formal commitment was in place with the province,” stated Ontario Regional Chief Day. “It is anticipated that the inquest will uncover what we already suspect; that the causes and responses to these deaths have more to do with deeper issues related historical issues like residential schools, Indians Act policy, poverty etc,” continued Day.

“If there are issues of foul play that have not surfaced during initial investigations – will expect to leave no stone unturned. In the end, the message from the Chiefs of Ontario is; it’s about time!!!”

Nishnawbe-Aski Statement

The families of six deceased First Nation youth who are being represented by Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto (ALST) are relieved that after waiting for three long years since the Inquest was called jointly, the Inquest into the deaths of their children will begin October 5, 2015. The Chief Coroner’s office publicly announced the schedule of the Inquest earlier today.

The inquest will examine the circumstance of the deaths of seven First Nation youth: Jethro Anderson in 2000; Curran Strang in 2005; Paul Panacheese in 2006; Robyn Harper in 2007; Reggie Bushie, in 2007; Kyle Morrisseau in 2009; and, Jordan Wabasse, in 2011. All of these youth died while they were attending high school in Thunder Bay, away from their home First Nation communities.

Dennis Franklin Cromarty Orientation includes the memorial walk and service.After many delays, legal counsel for six of the families, Christa Big Canoe and Jonathan Rudin of Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, are glad that the important issues and circumstances that caused these deaths will finally begin to be examined.

Christa Big Canoe stated, “The magnitude of the issues that First Nation youth experience is starting to be recognized more generally but it is the families’ hope that this Inquest will provide concrete and meaningful recommendations to prevent future deaths of students that want to seek education and better opportunities.”

Jonathan Rudin stated, “The families have been waiting so long and with so many questions about the loss of their children that it is a relief that the Inquest will finally begin.” “The families and the NAN communities have waited far too long for this process to commence,” said Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. “In 2000, we lost Jethro Anderson, who was only 15 years old. Since then, 6 more young people have been lost. Why are our communities forced to send their children hundreds of kilometers away to get a high school education? When they do, there is a lot anxiety about the fate of their children. We are hopeful that this Inquest will produce meaningful solutions that keep our children safe and allow them to access education without fear of tragic endings.”

Due to the similarities in all seven cases, NAN called for a broader inquiry to fully investigate the circumstances surrounding the loss of these youth and to find ways to prevent such tragedies from happening again. NAN received the expressed support of Chiefs and the families of the victims for a Joint Inquest into the deaths of all seven youth, which was announced by the Chief Coroner of Ontario on May 31, 2012. All 7 youth were from First Nations in Nishnawbe Aski Nation Territory.