Joint investigation begins into deaths of 2 Indigenous men in Thunder Bay police custody

THUNDER BAY, Ont. — A joint coroner’s inquest begins this morning into the deaths of two aboriginal men who died while in the custody of Thunder Bay police.

Don Mamakwa, 44, died August 3, 2014 and Roland McKay, 50, died July 20, 2017.

Both were arrested on suspicion of public intoxication and were being held at Thunder Bay Police Services Headquarters when they lost their vital signs.

Neither man was assessed by a nurse or doctor and both died from illness.

The inquest is expected to explore the circumstances of Mamakwa and McKay’s deaths, as well as how racism, prejudice and stereotyping may have been factors in first responders’ interactions with them.

Read more:

After NB Police Murder of Indigenous Woman, Chiefs Call for Investigation into Systemic Racism

The story continues under the ad

It will also assess the goals and advisability of taking intoxicated people into custody and explore alternatives, including the use of sobering up centers or hospitals.

The inquest is expected to last 17 days and approximately 31 witnesses are expected to testify.

The Thunder Bay Police Chief’s attorney and several force officers filed a motion in January 2021 arguing that certain cell block videos should be excluded from evidence. The footage shows police taking into custody another Indigenous man, Dino Kwandibens, for public drunkenness the same evening Mamakwa was arrested and later found dead.

Presiding coroner David Cameron dismissed arguments that the videos are irrelevant to the scope of the inquest earlier this year, saying another Indigenous man almost simultaneously undergoing similar treatment in Mamakwa could suggest systemic issues that must be resolved to prevent further deaths.

According to Cameron’s decision, Thunder Bay police officers can be seen in the video dragging Kwandibens to his cell. They can also be heard calling him derogatory names.

© 2022 The Canadian Press


Back to top button