NAN Calls for Implementation of Mamakwa-McKay Inquest Recommendations

THUNDER BAY, ON: Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Derek Fox welcomes recommendations delivered by the jury in the inquest into the deaths of Don Mamakwa and Roland McKay and calls for a process to begin their immediate implementation.

“This inquest has been a long and difficult process for the families, friends, and communities of these men. We recognize their strength, resiliency, and unwavering resolve to uncover the truth behind the loss of their loved ones, and we thank them for attending this inquest for the past four weeks,” said Grand Chief Derek Fox. “We share the family’s disappointment that Don Mamakwa’s death was not deemed as homicide, but we hope that finally knowing the truth about what happened to their loved ones can help these families begin their healing journeys.”

The jury’s verdict was handed down Friday to conclude the inquest into the deaths of Don Mamakwa, 44, of Kasabonika Lake First Nation (August 3, 2014) and Roland McKay, 50, of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (July 19, 2017). Both men died while in custody of the Thunder Bay Police Service. The 17-day inquest revealed that racist bias and stereotyping were factors in their deaths, including the lack of alternatives for those suffering from addictions, as both men were unable to access appropriate care.

In their Statement of Principle, the jury called for local services and agencies to be reflective of Indigenous cultural needs, and – in recognition of the historical and ongoing traumas faced by Indigenous communities – that care and services must be provided using a trauma informed approach to ensure that individuals who have suffered complex traumas are not excluded from the services that may assist them.

“We commend the jury, and we thank them for these insightful recommendations. They recognized that there are serious flaws in the system. The jury has provided a blueprint for meaningful change, and this community needs assurances that these recommendations will be acted on,” said Fox. “There have been many recommendations to prevent racism and premature deaths of Indigenous People over the years, but little action has been taken. We are prepared to assist with a process for implementation and accountability, and we look for firm commitments from everyone involved.”

Among their 35 recommendations, the jury called for:

  • The creation of a task force to establish a sobering centre with the designation of an alternate level of care to permit paramedics to transport patients there instead of an emergency room.
  • An increase in the number of beds in detox/treatment (rehabilitation) facilities and support for community-based programs.
  • A review of the role of jailers and the level of supervision for individuals in custody at the Thunder Bay Police Service.
  • Mandatory training for police, first-responders, and health service providers based on the history of colonization and Indigenous culture.
  • A position of Deputy Police Chief, Indigenous Relations.
  • An implementation plan by the Thunder Bay Police Services Board, in consultation with the Indigenous community, and a timeline for the implementation of recommendations from past inquests and inquiries.

Anyone requiring emotional support or assistance is encouraged to contact NAN Hope at 1-844-NAN-HOPE (626-4673).

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