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Inquest into youth deaths postponed to early 2015

Monday August 25, 2014

The Chief Coroner for Ontario said that the inquest into the deaths of seven youth in Thunder Bay will definitely not happen in 2014.

Dr. Dirk Huyer announced last month that the inquest into the seven youths’ deaths scheduled for this fall would be postponed.

And although Nishnawbe Aski Nation said it was willing to proceed with the inquest so long as the Office of the Coroner and the Attorney General were committed, Huyer said it will not happen.

Huyer cited two reasons for delay. He determined the jury roll for the Kenora and Thunder Bay districts did not have sufficient First Nations representation for this calendar year.

Huyer also said the briefs that are required to be sent to the participating parties involved in the inquest are not prepared.

In gathering the documents to prepare the briefs, Huyer said: “The amount of work that was done and the documents were more than we anticipated. We didn’t anticipate the volume of investigative work and the materials that would arise from it.”

Huyer expects the briefs to be ready by Oct. 31 and the inquest to begin in early 2015.

The joint inquiry, originally scheduled for this fall, was set to look into the deaths of the seven youth who died while attending high school in Thunder Bay over an 11-year period since 2000.

This includes: Jethro Anderson, 15, of Kasabonika Lake; Reggie Bushie, 15, of Poplar Hill; Robyn Harper, 19, of Keewaywin; Kyle Morrisseau, 17, of Keewaywin; Paul Panacheese, 21, of Mishkeegogamang; Curran Strang, 18, of Pikangikum; and Jordan Wabasse, 15, of Webequie.
Two of the youth died due to overdose while the others drowned.

An inquest into the death of Bushie was halted in 2011 due to jury roll issues in Thunder Bay, at which point calls for a broader inquiry into the deaths of all seven youth came from NAN.

Although NAN expressed disappointment in the delay, Huyer said he understands.

“I recognize the significance of this decision (to postpone) and acknowledge the distress that may have resulted from it and that fact that families and communities are looking for answers,” he said.

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