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No charges laid in death of Omushkegowuk walker

Monday August 25, 2014
Wawatay file photo

The Special Investigations Unit has determined no charges will be laid against any Timmins police officer in connection to the death of Paul Mattinas of Attawapiskat. Mattinas (far left) was one of three Omushkegowuk walkers who began a trek from Attawapiskat to Ottawa earlier this year.

Although the circumstances behind the death of Paul Mattinas remain unknown to the Special Investigations Unit (SIU), it has determined that are no reasonable grounds to lay charges against any Timmins police officer.

Mattinas, a member of Attawapiskat First Nation, was found dead on April 22 at 6:30 a.m. at a parking lot in Timmins.

The 56-year-old had been detained by officers of the Timmins Police Service (TPS) for a brief period the night before, where it was determined he needed medical attention. Officers noted he smelled of alcohol and had difficulty standing. The officers, having familiarity with Mattinas, found his behaviour to “seem peculiar,” according to the SIU.

Mattinas was taken to the Timmins District Hospital and released into the care of medical staff. According to the SIU, it was the last involvement police had with Mattinas before his body was found the next morning.

Two months before his death, Mattinas, affectionately known as “Poonish” to many, had completed a 1,700-kilometre walk and spiritual journey, where he and two other Attawapiskat residents trekked from Attawapiskat to Ottawa. Called the Omushkegowuk Walkers, the trio brought messages of unity and called for the First Nations leaders and two levels to government to have discussions on honouring the treaty.

The walkers were joined by members of other Mushkegowuk communities and numbered more than 20 people by the time they reached the steps of Parliament Hill.

Mattinas also served as a member of the Canadian Rangers.

A residential school survivor, Mattinas battled alcoholism throughout his life.

After police had taken Mattinas to the hospital, he checked himself out at 9:55 p.m. that night.

SIU’s acting director, Joseph Martino, concluded “the precise circumstances leading to (Mattinas’) death remain unknown to the SIU.”

He said the pathologist at autopsy reported that the death was related to “blunt impact to the head and neck” and noted that there were “hyper extension cervical spine injuries.”

“One can only speculate as to the manner in which Mr. Mattinas met his demise; perhaps he simply fell and struck his head on the ground,” Martino said in a media release. “Be that as it may, as far as the SIU’s jurisdiction is concerned, I am satisfied that the officers who arrested Mr. Mattinas and then dealt with him during his very brief period in their custody acted lawfully and with due care throughout.”

The SIU is an agency that investigates reports involving police where there has been death, serious injury or allegations of sexual assault. The director of the SIU must consider whether an officer has committed a criminal offence in connection with the incident under investigation.


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