Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace One Year Anniversary of Death

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A Vigil is planned for April 17 2017
A Vigil is planned for April 17 2017 the one year anniversary of her disappearance
A Vigil is planned for April 17 2017
A Vigil is planned for April 17 2017 the one year anniversary of her disappearance

Kenora — On April 17 of last year, 14 year old Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace, an Anishinaabe girl rom Grassy Narrows First Nation, was found dead across the road from Kenora District Hospital, from which she had disapeared while in police custody two days earlier.

On Monday April 17 of this year, Ackabee-Kokopenace’s family, friends, community and supporters will be gathering at Knox United Church to demand justice for Azraya.

To this date, the Omtario Coroner has not yet declared a cause of death. This delay is creating drastic uncertainty, suspicion and unease — major contributors to the ongoing youth crises in the community.

The Ackabee-Kokopenace family’s demand has been backed by Grand Council Treaty 3 Chief Warren White, Grassy Narrows FN Chief Simon Fobister, Chief’s of Ontario’s Isadore Day, and the Grassy Narrows Youth Organization. The demand for a full Coroner’s Inquest to determine the circumstances of her death, the role of the three culpable agencies (child welfare, police, and the hospital), and seeking recommendations to prevent such tragedies in the future.

Non-Indigenous leaders have also backed the demand for an inquest and the call for Justice for Azraya. NDP MP Charlie Angus, MPP Sarah Campbell (who will be speaking at the Press portion of the vigil event), and Provincial Youth Advocate Irwin Elman have all publicly restated the demand for an inquest, but still there has been only delay and silence.

Background

Azraya Ackabee-Kokopenace was first reported missing at 11:30pm on April 15, when she disappeared from the hospital in Kenora.

She was picked up by police and dropped off at the hospital earlier that evening, despite having an earlier curfew at the Child Welfar Agency home where she was in care. Why she was picked up by police and why family was not contacted then remains unclear.

Shortly after being dropped off at the hospital by police, Ackabee-Kokopenace—14 years old and intoxicated—walked away from the hospital, and was only then reported missing.

Still no one called her family.

Azraya’s body was found two days later, not by police, but by volunteer members of the Bear Clan Patrol from Winnipeg, less than two blocks away from Kenora District hospital where she was abandoned by police.

Bear Clan Patrol members have said that it appears that Azraya took her own life, but an official cause of death has yet to be declared by the coroner; family and friends remain unconvinced that there was no foul play involved with her death.

The Ackabee-Kokopenace family and supporters blame the system for Azraya’s death and have been demanding an inquest into the death since April of last year.

Azraya was removed from the community of Grassy Narrows, her home, less than a year after the death of her older brother Calvin, who died at 17 in 2014 from complications of mercury poisoning. Azraya had been living in the custody of Anishinaabe Abanooji Child and Family Services in Kenora since being removed from her home in Grassy Narrows.

The fact that Azraya was assaulted by police two weeks earlier–an incident caught on video (available upon request)–and that Azraya is the fourth member of the Kokopenace family to die in custody, greatly exacerbates suspicion into the circumstances of her death.

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