Coroner’s jury makes nine recommendations in 2016 death of Resolute Bay man

Jury makes recommendations to RCMP, Government of Nunavut

A coroner’s inquest into the death of a 46-year-old Resolute Bay man in 2016 concluded on Friday, March 13, with a verdict from the jury of death by suicide along with nine recommendations to the RCMP and the Government of Nunavut. (Photo by Emma Tranter)

By Emma Tranter

Warning: There are some details in this story that may be upsetting to readers.

RESOLUTE BAY—A coroner’s jury has ruled that a man who died after a prolonged standoff in the community with police on Nov. 28, 2016, died by suicide.

A coroner’s inquest into the death of Silas Ulayuruluk, 46, began in Resolute Bay on Wednesday, March 11. The inquest concluded on March 13 after a seven-hour deliberation by the jury.

A coroner’s jury must determine the name of the deceased and the date, time and place of death. In Nunavut, coroner’s inquest are mandatory when someone dies while detained or in police custody. Inquests do not lay blame or find guilt.

The jury must also identify the cause and manner of death and the circumstances under which the death occurred as best as can be determined from the available evidence.

The jury must classify the manner of death as one of five options: natural, homicide, suicide, accidental or undetermined.

After the long deliberation inside the South Camp Inn, where the inquest was held, the foreperson read the jury’s verdict into the record.

The six-person jury made up of three women and three men ruled that Ulayuruluk died by suicide on Nov. 28, 2016, between 9:37 a.m. and 11:50 a.m. at house 114 in Resolute Bay. He died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, the jury ruled.

In their submissions, Sheldon Toner, counsel for the coroner’s office, and Donna Keats, counsel for the RCMP, had both asked the jury to rule Ulayuruluk’s death a suicide.

Witnesses throughout the inquest were questioned by the jury and by counsel about whether they had heard a gun shot inside Ulayuruluk’s house, but no one could confirm having heard one.

Toner asked the jury to identify a range of time during which Ulayuruluk died instead of an exact time of death. This followed testimony from Sgt. Richard Dugal of the Ottawa Police Service major crime unit, who told the jury that his investigation concluded that Ulayuruluk died between his last phone call with crisis negotiators and the moment when the RCMP breached the door to his residence.

The jury ruled that on Nov. 27, 2016, Ulayuruluk was involved in a domestic dispute with his common-law girlfriend during which she was badly injured. She was medevaced to Iqaluit with life-threatening injuries.

“During this time Mr. Ulayuruluk had possession of a .303 calibre rifle and fired approximately seven to 10 rounds towards house 117 across the community,” the foreperson read.

Ulayuruluk then allowed his common-law girlfriend to leave the residence, telling her that he was going to end his life and he did not want her to witness it.

“The two person RCMP detachment in Resolute Bay received simultaneous complaints about [the] alleged assault and the shooting and worked to quickly move people to safety…. The critical incident response team from Edmonton arrived early in the morning of November 28, 2016,” the foreperson read.

On Nov. 28, 2016, the Edmonton RCMP’s crisis negotiation team made contact with Ulayuruluk who apologized for his past actions and said he wanted to end his life. The RCMP then made several attempts to get Ulayuruluk to leave his residence, without success. At 12:10 p.m. that day, the RCMP entered his residence and found him deceased.

To determine that a death is suicide, a jury should take into account “that suicide is not a natural act and the allegation of suicide is a serious one with grave consequences,” Elizabeth Copland, Nunavut’s chief coroner, told the jury.

“I think it’s worth explaining that suicide, in a coroner’s context … has no moral implications. It doesn’t carry any judgement on the person for having done that act. It is a classification which recognizes the mere fact that they took their life,” Copland said.

“This community witnessed a very tragic incident here in November 2016. You lost a member of your community, Silas Ulayuruluk,” Keats told the jury.

A coroner’s jury can also make recommendations to help prevent death in similar circumstances. Those recommendations should be directed to a specific person, agency or organization.

Throughout the inquest, the jury heard suggestions for recommendations from Toner, Keats and various witnesses. The jury is not required to include those suggestions in their recommendations.

The jury made nine recommendations, eight of them directed to the RCMP and one directed to the Government of Nunavut.

Here is the full list of recommendations:

  1. The RCMP will work with Inuit organizations to form an Inuit Advisory Committee that can provide guidance on needs specific to Nunavut to achieve the shared goal of preservation of life in coordinating efforts of all aspects of critical incident team response.
  2. The RCMP, through the Canadian Police College, working with an Inuit Advisory Committee, will ensure delivery of training material and curriculum for critical incident responders and negotiators that is relevant to the historical and contemporary experiences of Inuit to de-escalate situations and to build positive relationships.
  3. The RCMP “V” Division will make best efforts to ensure a crisis negotiator familiar with the language and culture of Nunavut is made available to assist any crisis negotiators deployed from southern Canada to address a critical incident in Nunavut.
  4. The RCMP “V” Division will make best efforts to establish community liaisons to work with critical incident responders and negotiators sent from outside Nunavut to deal with critical incidents.
  5. The RCMP “V” Division will work with the telephone service provider in Nunavut to develop a clear procedure for locking phone numbers in crisis situations, to ensure crisis negotiations have complete information on which number to use to call into a locked phone.
  6. The RCMP, critical incident emergency response team may test equipment in cold weather training to help prepare a repertoire of equipment that will work reliably in northern conditions.
  7. The RCMP “V” Division will make best efforts to explore the viability of creating and staffing an administrative position in local community detachments to assist local RCMP and the general public. The administrative role would help facilitate clear, accurate communications in Inuktitut and English on a daily basis and in crisis situations. This position would have its own dedicated phone line to receive calls independent of -1111 dispatch and -0123 to reach local officers. In critical incident response this line could receive calls from the public with potential information that may assist negotiators.
  8. The RCMP may have access to a psychologist and/or psychiatrist familiar with their negotiation model.
  9. The Government of Nunavut will make best efforts to help provide early intervention and support of physical and mental well-being of youth and first responders such as firefighters and search and rescue.

If you are feeling distressed or suicidal, call the Kamatsiaqtut Help Line, 24-hours a day, at 1-867-979-3333 in Iqaluit, or toll-free from Nunavik or Nunavut at 1-800-265-3333.

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