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Nunavut MLA wants inquest into death of Igloolik man in custody

Nunavut justice minister suggests inquest will be held eventually

By SAMANTHA DAWSON

Amittuq MLA Louis Tapardjuk wants to know if the death of a man held in RCMP custody last fall in Igloolik could warrant a public inquest.

“When a death occurs in a jail, lock up or correctional facility under the Coroners Act, inquests must be held in public,” Tapardjuk said during question period in the Nunavut legislature Feb. 26.

Tapardjuk was referring to the death of a 26-year-old man who died in a jail cell in Igloolik last September, an incident that was to have been investigated independently by the Ottawa Police Service.

Tapardjuk asked Daniel Shewchuck, Nunavut’s justice minister, when an inquest into the incident would begin. Tapardjuk said the law requires that a public coroner’s inquest be held whenever someone dies while in police custody.

“It is a very, very tragic situation that happened in Igloolik. Our thought and prayers are with the family and the citizens of Igloolik,” said Shewchuk, noting that the independent investigation, overseen by the Ottawa Police Service, did take place.

After the report is reviewed, the Department of Justice will decide on when to hold an inquest is needed, Shewchuk said.

“I don’t think he understood my question… I asked whether or not there is going to be an inquest,” Tapardjuk said.

Because the incident is still under investigation, Shewchuk didn’t want to make further comments.

Tapardjuk then asked Shewchuk how the family of the man who died in custody would be informed of the status of the situation, so that they and other people of Igloolik would know what is going on.

The report will be released to the family, who will be “kept informed by the RCMP and the Department of Justice,” Shewchuk said.

However, Tapardjuk said there’s been “a miscommunication between the government and the public.”

Tapardjuk had also raised questions about the incident in the fall sitting of the legislative assembly, where he pointed out several disturbing occurrences that took place in Igloolik last year.

Then, Tapardjuk called for more work on the relationship between the police and other members of the community, as well as for a possible “independent police council.”

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