Better housing and medical equipment needed in Gjoa Haven, witnesses tell inquest

Health experts make recommendations at inquest into Charles Qirngnirq’s 2016 shooting death

An inquest into the shooting death of Charles Qirngnirq, 21, who died at the Gjoa Haven airport in December 2016, included testimonies from health experts who offered recommendations to help prevent similar deaths in the future. (File photo)

By Madalyn Howitt

Better-trained nursing staff, access to medical equipment and improved housing could help Gjoa Haven residents who experience medical emergencies or mental distress, according to witnesses at a coroner’s inquest Wednesday.

The inquest into the 2016 shooting death of Charles Qirngnirq by an RCMP officer continued in its third day with several expert witnesses offering recommendations they said could help prevent similar deaths from occurring in the future.

Michelle Paul was the lead nurse at the Gjoa Haven health centre when Qirngnirq was brought in after being shot then-Const. Ian Crowe on Dec. 19, 2016. Qirngnirq, who was armed with rifle, was shot because police felt he posed a threat to them when they encountered him near the airport, Crowe testified on Tuesday.

Paul testified that due to the massive trauma Qirngnirq sustained from the gunshot wound, there wasn’t much more that medics on the scene could have done differently to save his life that day. She did, however, give recommendations for what could help the health centre address similar situations in the future.

“I think paying more attention to the skill of the nurses coming in would be very helpful.

“There’s always such a mix of that,” she said. Having some say in who comes to work at the health centre could help staff address the specific needs of the community more efficiently, she added.

“We’re the best ones to understand the level of acuity and illness in these communities. Gjoa Haven happened to be one of those communities that had some very sick babies and accidents that happened, so [assessing] the skill base of who’s coming in to work … is better for everybody,” she said.

“I’ve been in situations in Gjoa Haven, in particular, where we didn’t even have a life pack at one point,” she said, referring to a defibrillator machine. “The process to get them in Gjoa Haven, even on a good day, can be pretty challenging, so getting equipment to us in a timely manner [would be helpful],” she explained.

Throughout the inquest, multiple witnesses also testified that Qirngnirq was uttering suicidal remarks the day he died, and family members said they were worried he would harm himself.

Better housing options could improve mental health issues in the community, said RCMP Cpl. Eric Beaulieu, who has been stationed in Gjoa Haven since 2019. Previously he was stationed in Coral Harbour and had been a suicide prevention lead with the RCMP in Alberta.

“I think the biggest issue with mental health … is the lack of housing,” said Beaulieu. “What can you ask of someone who’s housing three or four families in one house because they have to wait six years to get a house?”

He said more accommodations need to be built in Nunavut to help alleviate the pressures on families living so closely together. Otherwise, he doesn’t see mental health issues “going away anytime soon,” he said.

The inquest into Qirngnirq’s death is expected to conclude Friday. A jury will deliberate and issue a verdict on the facts of the case and will consider recommendations to prevent deaths in similar circumstances.

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(6) Comments:

  1. Posted by Economics on

    People keep calling for more housing, but the solution is for people to stop having kids that they can’t support. That’s the only solution. The government does what it can, but it will never catch up with people on social assistance who keep producing new social assistance recipients.

    It’s not a lack of houses, it’s a lack of a local economy to sustain a growing population. Politicians don’t want to address that, but nothing can be solved without tackling that core problem. The arctic just doesn’t need a huge population. It was much smaller in the old days, and without developing a modern economy of its own, it has already grown way too large.

    Economic misery results in mental health problems. Mental health treatment will never help until you solve the root cause of too many people (with always more on the way) in an area with no economy to support them.

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    • Posted by Nah on

      Growing up, it was not unusual for families to have many kids. The difference is families didn’t rely on a wage economy.

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      • Posted by Other differences on

        True, or modern housing for that matter. Today that is an expectation and one that comes with no expectation that anything be done to attain it, which is also completely different than in the past. Is this point meant to diminish the original observations?

  2. Posted by where’s the Dr on

    We’ve heard the Lead nurses opinion, but what about the doctor?

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