Thursday, September 18, 2014
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Chiefs of Ontario push for inquiry into student deaths

Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy calls on province to provide a sense of closure for the families

CBC News

The Assembly of First Nations is supporting a call from the Chiefs of Ontario to push the provincial government to hold an inquiry into the deaths of seven young people attending high school in Thunder Bay.

A resolution was introduced and passed at the AFN General Assembly last week in Halifax.

Since 2000, seven youths from Nishnawbe Aski Nation Territory have died while attending secondary school.

The Chief Coroner of Ontario ordered a joint inquest into the deaths but this inquest was delayed because of the lack of First Nations representation on the Thunder Bay jury roll.

Stan Beardy, the Ontario Regional Chief, said political pressure needs to be applied to the province. "Those seven families are still wondering as of today many years later, ten years later, what did happen, why did they have to lose their children that came out for school. I think the families are looking for a sense of closure."

Beardy said answers are needed not just for the families of the seven young people but also for issues of justice across the country in terms of the large number of missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada. He said "nothing has been done and I think that is what is most troubling for us as First Nations people, as parents, older siblings of those young people is that there's a sense given to us as First Nations people for some reason the lives of our young people is of no value"

In an email to CBC, the Ministry of the Attorney General said "Public inquiries are not meant to serve as substitutes for, or supplements to, inquests under the Coroners Act. The coroner has already determined that an inquest is appropriate for investigating these tragic deaths."

Beardy said there is a concern within the Chiefs of Ontario about an inquest ever happening. He said "there is inaction in terms of justice for First Nations people and we're very concerned that if we don't do something about the deaths of those seven young people here in Thunder Bay, if we don't put political pressure nothing may happen."

The issue was also raised today in the Ontario legislature by Sarah Campbell, the NDP member for Kenora-Rainy River.

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