Inquest into deaths of Ont. students will be echoed by MMIW inquiry: Aboriginal leader

OTTAWA -- An Ontario inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations high school students is raising difficult questions and themes sure to be echoed by a forthcoming inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, aboriginal leaders say.

See Full Article

The inquiry, which resumes Monday in Thunder Bay, is exploring how the deaths were investigated and the level of communication between officials and families, Nishnawbe Aski Nation Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler said in an interview.

Nishnawbe Aski is one of the parties with standing at the inquest.

"I think there are a couple of themes that have emerged from this inquest that we see a strong parallel with the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls," Fiddler said.

"One is the racism that these students experienced here in Thunder Bay and the lack of proper attention by the authorities into these deaths. There were delays in launching a full-scale search for these students once they were reported missing."

The inquest, which is being conducted in phases in front of a jury, is exploring what happened to 15-year-old Jethro Anderson, 18-year-old Curran Strang, 21-year-old Paul Panacheese, 19-year-old Robyn Harper, 17-year-old Kyle Morrisseau, 15-year-old Jordan Wabasse and 15-year-old Reggie Bushie.

The deaths, which occurred between 2000 and 2011, all took place while the students were living in Thunder Bay, away from their First Nations communities, in order to be able to attend high school.

Many northern Ontario communities lack high schools, which forces young people to live in boarding houses that are closer to available facilities, Fiddler said.

"For the most part, you don't have a choice but to go to high school -- whether it is in Sioux Lookout or Timmins or Thunder Bay," he said.

It's an experience with which Fiddler has first-hand knowledge.

"For me, it was the realization I was one of those kids," he said, recalling the memory of leaving his First Nations community to attend school in Sioux Lookout and Thunder Bay.

"It hits pretty close to home. You can't help but feel that you have to do something about what was happening -- and what is happening."

Although the jury's conclusions are not binding, the hope is that it can make recommendations in order to prevent deaths in similar circumstances.

The inquest is expected to highlight systemic problems with First Nations child welfare and access to education -- areas also flagged in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recent findings in its exhaustive study of Canada's now-defunct residential school system.

In an interview with The Canadian Press, Indigenous Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett called the Thunder Bay deaths a "terrible tragedy."

"Obviously the child welfare system is not working and I have already promised that we will look at it and overhaul it to make sure that we can have families stay together whenever possible," said Bennett.

"This is truly sobering, this inquest ... we want to be able to put in place concrete actions at all levels of government to prevent this tragedy in the future."

Canada may no longer have residential schools, but the attitudes and stigmas that helped bring them about are still a factor, said NDP indigenous affairs critic Charlie Angus, whose northern Ontario riding includes a number of First Nations communities.

"I've spoken with young people who have left home at 14 and lived in boarding houses," Angus said." They talk about the residential schools; they say, 'This is what my grandparents when through."'

Young indigenous people are often forced to leave their tight-knit home communities behind, ending up in big cities that can be dark and dangerous alternate worlds, Angus said.

"Why is that situation happening? It is because the federal government doesn't supply high schools in many of these communities."

Bennett said the new Liberal government is looking at solutions.

"I'm heartened by the fact that so many people are thinking about these things and obviously it really touches Charlie Angus's riding," she said.

"The kinds of supports and services that are there for those communities (are) clearly not adequate."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • Canada 150: Five national parks to visit with the free discovery pass

    Canada News CTV News
    With Parks Canada offering a free Discovery Pass for the country's 150th anniversary, CTVNews.ca has rounded up the best bucket-list destinations to visit. Banff National Park – Alberta Canada's first national park is also one of its most spectacular, with a glacier lake, breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains and some of the best ski slopes in the country. Source
  • Manchester bomber Salman Abedi had ‘face of hate’ [Photos] [Video]

    World News Toronto Sun
    MANCHESTER, England — An apparent suicide bomber attacked an Ariana Grande concert as it ended Monday night, killing 22 people among a panicked crowd of young concertgoers, some still wearing the star’s trademark kitten ears and holding pink balloons as they fled. Source
  • 3 more arrested in Manchester bombing

    World News CBC News
    Police in Manchester say they have arrested three more men in connection with the suicide bombing at a pop concert that killed 22 people. They said Wednesday the arrests had been made in the south of the U.K. Source
  • U.S. officials seize $500M worth of poppies used for opium

    World News CTV News
    CLAREMONT, N.C. - Authorities say nearly half a hectare of poppy plants used in producing opium has been seized in North Carolina. Local news groups report the Catawba County Sheriff's Office seized the field Tuesday. Source
  • Philippines president declares martial law as Muslim extremists lay siege to city

    World News CBC News
    Muslim extremists abducted a Catholic priest and more than a dozen churchgoers while laying siege to a southern Philippine city overnight, burning buildings, ambushing soldiers and hoisting flags of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria group, officials said Wednesday. Source
  • Summer temperatures will swing between hot, cold: meteorologist

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Temperatures this summer are expected to feel like "whiplash," and may swing between hot and cool over the course of the season, a top meteorologist says. The Weather Network released its summer forecast Tuesday, and chief meteorologist Chris Scott said it may feel like being on a teeter-totter. Source
  • Strong winds leave thousands without power across B.C.

    Canada News CTV News
    VANCOUVER - BC Hydro was reporting more than 74,000 homes and businesses without electricity late Tuesday due to strong winds throughout the province. The utility says most of the outages, affecting almost 36,000 customers, were in the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast with a further 35,000 customers in the dark in the Thompson-Shuswap areas. Source
  • 'Houdini' of death row fights for reprieve in Alabama

    World News CTV News
    MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Tommy Arthur has had his execution postponed seven times since 2001, so many delays that victims' rights advocates derisively call him the "Houdini" of death row. He says he is innocent and is fighting for an eighth reprieve, but he is losing optimism: "They are going to kill me this time. Source
  • Search resumes for 4 missing after India bus plunges into river

    World News CTV News
    NEW DELHI - Rescuers on Wednesday found another three bodies as they resumed searching for people missing after a bus plunged into a river in mountainous northern India, killing at least 20 Hindu pilgrims. Police officer Mahadev Uniyal said that rescuers recovered 19 bodies and one person died in a hospital. Source
  • Duterte declares martial law in south Philippines

    World News CTV News
    MANILA, Philippines - Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned Wednesday that he'll be harsh in enforcing martial law in his country's south as he abruptly left Moscow to deal with a crisis at home sparked by a Muslim extremist siege on a city, where militants burned buildings overnight and are feared to have taken hostages. Source