THUNDER BAY, ON ---- June 10, 2013 ---- Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Harvey Yesno and Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler are heralding the formal commencement of the joint inquest into the deaths of seven NAN youth who have died under similar circumstance while attending school in Thunder Bay.
Tuesday marks the opening of the Inquest into the Death of Seven First Nations Youth in Thunder Bay. The proceedings will begin at 10 a.m. in Auditorium A, Ontario Government Building, Main Floor, 189 Red River Road. NAN will be in attendance to apply for standing at the Inquest and to continue its ongoing political support for this process and for the families and communities who have lost their youth.
“For years NAN has taken the lead in ensuring scrutiny into the safety and education of our youth and this inquest is a culmination of our efforts to get answers for the families,” said NAN Grand Chief Harvey Yesno. “The commencement of the joint inquest is a welcome first step in the journey towards answering some of the questions the families of these youth and their communities have been asking for years.”
NAN has had a longstanding interest in these issues and this process. On March 6, 2008 NAN wrote to then Regional Supervising Coroner Dr. Eden concerning the deaths of First Nations students and expressed serious concern over the inexplicable loss of life. On May 11, 2012 NAN wrote to Dr. McCallum, then Chief Coroner for Ontario, requesting that he direct that the deaths of six other youth who had died in similar circumstances and from a common cause be added to the Inquest into the Death of Reggie Bushie. NAN was successful in its submission, and now welcomes the beginning of this joint inquest.
“The loss of so many young lives has caused great fear and apprehension across NAN First Nations and this has grown since the most recent deaths,” said NAN Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler, who holds the justice portfolio at NAN. “It is critical that the tragic loss of seven young lives must be looked at in the broadest terms possible and that the truth is finally uncovered as to the real cause of these tragedies.”
NAN has pursued this issue as the safety of their young community members is a paramount and an increasing concern. Many youth who grow up in small or remote fly-in communities must leave home in order to pursue a secondary school education.
“As in the case of any inquest, the formal commencement to the proceedings is a standing application,” said Julian Falconer, counsel for NAN at the inquest. “These are landmark proceedings as they represent the single largest joint death inquiry into Aboriginal deaths in Ontario history.”
Nishnawbe Aski Nation is a political territorial organization representing 49 First Nation communities in James Bay Treaty No. 9 and Ontario portions of Treaty No. 5 – an area covering two thirds of the province of Ontario in Canada.