Category Archives: Inquests

Inquest Set for In-Custody Death of Ina Matawapit of North Caribou Lake First Nation after Lengthy Delay

After five years, a date has finally been set for the inquest into the death in police custody of 37-year-old Ina Matawapit, at the Weagamow Lake Nursing Station in North Caribou Lake First Nation, in northern Ontario. Matawapit died on June 7, 2012 after a transfer from a police vehicle while in custody. Matawapit’s case was one of several that have been egregiously delayed due to widespread problems with Indigenous representation on jury rolls. This ongoing, entrenched problem has characterized criminal justice systems and inquests in the Canadian state context. At least 20 cases in Ontario have been delayed by province’s jury roll problems.

The inquest into Matawapit’s death is mandatory under the Coroners Act because she was in custody at the time. The inquest will examine the circumstances surrounding her death by hearing from about 10 witnesses over the scheduled six days of proceedings. Dr. Michael Wilson will be presiding coroner during the inquest which is scheduled to begin at 9:30 AM on February 12, 2018 at the Days Inn in Sioux Lookout, Ontario.

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Inquest Ordered into Killing of Michel Vienneau by Killer Bathurst Cops Patrick Bulger and Mathieu Boudreau

On Friday, November 24, 2017, the Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Justice and Public Safety in New Brunswick announced a coroner’s inquest into the 2015 shooting of Michel Vienneau by Bathurst Police Force constables Patrick Bulger (38) and Mathieu Boudreau (28).

Michel Vienneau, a 51-year-old Tracadie resident, was shot and killed in a Bathurst Via Rail parking lot on January 12, 2015 after the two officers, who may not have been clearly identified, attempted to detain him. The police were acting on an anonymous tip that Vienneau was carrying “a load of drugs” with him as he returned from Montreal with his partner Annick Basque. The tip proved to be completely false and Vienneau had no criminal record. Constables Patrick Bulger and Mathieu Boudreau were charged with manslaughter by means of an unlawful act, assault with a weapon, and unlawfully pointing a firearm but were let off by provincial court Judge Anne Dugas-Horsman.

Upon hearing of the inquest announcement that he had requested, Nicolas Vienneau, the victim’s brother stated: “We have been living three years of hell” (quoted in MacKinnon 2017). Reflecting on the pain his mother (85) and father (88) have been through, he suggested that they are still “terrorized”: “It’s terrible to live like this” (quoted in 2017). In his view: “If we can find some justice, it will not [help my little brother], but maybe it will give us a little bit of peace” (quoted in MacKinnon 2017).

Only days before the inquest was announced, Crown prosecutors gave notice that they would not be appealing the court decision of February 24 , 2017, in which provincial court Judge Anne Dugas-Horsman decided to drop charges against the two killer cops. The announcement by prosecutors resulted in a lifting of the publication ban on the trial and raised serious questions about the court’s actions, as we reported at the time. The Crown had sought a judicial review of Judge Dugas-Horsman’s decision, seeking to have it overruled, but Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Tracey DeWare dismissed that application in October.

Nicolas Vienneau reports that the family is “still in shock” over the decision not to appeal (quoted in MacKinnon 2017). He is left to ask: “How can justice allow a person to be shot dead…sitting in his car in motion, by two policemen in civilian clothes…with [an] unmarked car?” (quoted in MacKinnon 2017). The short answer is that the killers were cops and in the Canadian context they are allowed to kill with impunity. But more detailed answers are needed. The family remains perplexed that civilian witnesses were not questioned during preliminary inquiry, which they view as inadequate.

Nicolas Vienneau plans to bring a petition to the House of Commons to have the identity of the Crime Stoppers tipster revealed. In his words: “My family still believes that the tipster of this false information…is the key to the puzzle” (quoted in MacKinnon 2017)

Bulger and Boudreau are still working as officers but face a professional conduct investigation by the New Brunswick Police Commission. That investigation had been suspended while criminal charges were still in effect. With the conclusion of criminal proceedings that investigation will resume.

Annick Basque is suing killer cops Bulger and Boudreau as well as the City of Bathurst.

 

Further Reading

MacKinnon, Bobbi-Jean. 2017. “Michel Vienneau’s Family Hopes Inquest into 2015 Shooting Death Will Provide Answers.” CBC News. November 24. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/new-brunswick/michel-vienneau-coroner-inquest-bathurst-police-shooting-1.4417683


Inquest Set into Burnaby RCMP Killing of Travis Rood

A public inquest has been set to examine the killing of Travis Rood, a 35-year-old Burnaby man, by Burnaby RCMP on March 29, 2015. The BC Coroners Service has claimed that Rood suffered injuries “following an encounter with the attending officer” and has set the inquest for January 8, 2018 in Burnaby. Rood was shot by RCMP and died at Royal Columbian Hospital. The inquest cannot assign criminal responsibility and can only make recommendations that police are in no way obligated to adopt.


Public Inquest Called Into Vancouver Police Killing of Tony Du in 2014

It has been announced that the BC Coroners Service will hold a public inquest into the fatal shooting of 51-year-old Phuong Na (Tony) Du by Vancouver police in 2014. Du was killed by Vancouver Police Department (VPD) officers in public while in some psychological distress on Knight Street near 41st Avenue in Vancouver.

Two officers responded to calls about DU with one firing a been bag gun at him  and the other shooting him with a firearm. Du was taken to hospital where he died from the injuries inflicted by police. Du experienced mental illness.

The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the agency that examines cases of police harm to civilians in British Columbia investigated the killing but charges were not recommended by the Criminal Justice Branch (CJB) for the two officers responsible. The CJB claimed the use of a firearm by one of the officers was justifiable on the basis of his belief that his partner’s life was in danger, despite the fact that the other officer was armed.

In February 2017, Tony Du’s family launched a civil suit against the City of Vancouver and the police officer who fired the fatal shot in the killing. Lawyers representing the victim’s family note that Tony Du was killed between only 18 and 25 seconds after police arrived on the scene. This time was no where near long enough for police to begin a conversation with Du let alone establish his mental condition.

The public inquest into the police killing of Tony Du will commence on February 5, 2018, at the Burnaby Coroners Court. As per usual, the coroner’s jury will be able to make recommendations that might prevent deaths under similar circumstances but which police are under no obligation at all to follow. The jury cannot make any finding of legal responsibility or blame and can not recommend charges against any killer cop.


Coroner’s Inquest Begins in Custody Death of Ebony Aaron Wood in Quesnel, BC

A coroner’s inquest into the November 7, 2016, in-custody death of Ebony Aaron Wood (36) in Quesnel, British Columbia, began Tuesday, November 14, 2017. The BC Coroners Service reports that Wood was involved in a vehicular incident and was taken into custody and placed in a police cruiser on November 5, 2016. He apparently told an RCMP officer that he had chest and shoulder pain and an ambulance was called. Wood was transferred to the ambulance to be taken to hospital. At some point en route he exited the rear of the ambulance falling to the road and suffering a head injury. He dies two days later on November 7, 2016.

The inquest is mandatory because Wood was in the custody of a police officer at the time of his death. Regional coroner Donita Kuzma will be joined by a jury in hearing from witnesses in an attempt to establish the facts of Wood’s death. Coroners’ inquests do not assign fault in such deaths, and its recommendations need not be followed by any police force or officers.


Coroner’s Inquest but Police Investigate Police in RCMP Custody Death Beverly Elanik in Inuvik

The Office of the Chief Coroner in Northwest Territories (NWT) has called an inquest into the death of Beverly Elanik, a 51-year-old mother of five children who died in RCMP custody in Inuvik in January 2016. RCMP assumed that Elanik was intoxicated when they arrested here. While being processed to leave the following day, police claim she went into what they are calling “medical distress.” She was taken by police to the Inuvik hospital, where died. Eileen Edwards, Elanik’s mother, has stated publicly that police from Medicine Hat, Alberta, told her that her daughter had suffered a seizure. The inquest into Elanik’s death is scheduled to start on September 26 at the Mackenzie Hotel in Inuvik.

RCMP in NWT have said that the Medicine Hat Police Service will be conducting an external review of the incident. There is no process for independent review in place in the territory.


RCMP Assume Indigenous Man Having Stroke is Drunk: Inquest into Paul Kayuryuk Death

Between July 24 and July 27, 2017,  coroner’s inquest in Baker Lake, Nunavut, examined the death in jail of Paul Kayuryuk in October 2012 and concluded that police must “challenge assumptions” about intoxication in Inui communities. This after necessary medical attention was not provided Kayuryuk after RCMP jailed the man, who was having a stroke, on the assumption that he was drunk.

RCMP took Kayuryuk into custody after he was found unconscious at the landfill in Baker Lake.  Kayuryuk was observed overnight by three different guards and remained unconscious. It was only at midday the following day that a medical examination was ordered as a result of information received from the family. Kayuryuk was diabetic and the doctor and nurses at the local health center determined that he was experiencing a serious stroke. He was medivacked to Winnipeg but died there two weeks later from complications from the stroke.

Six jurors made 17 recommendations. Among them:

Cultural sensitivity training for officers and providing prisoners access to Inuktitut translators;  Seeking family insights and acting on the side of health care rather than presumed intoxication when in doubt.

Nunavut’s Chief Coroner Padma Suramala will present the recommendations to the RCMP who are under no obligation to observe them. This is one of several coroners’ inquests examining harm to Indigenous people by police with implications of racism and racist stereotyping of people seeking or in need of medical care.