Jury rules death of Kugluktuk man ‘accidental,’ offers recommendations

Weeklong inquest heard testimony from police, medical experts and mother of Austin Maniyogena

An inquest into the 2018 death of Austin Maniyogena concluded Friday with the jury deciding the 22-year-old’s death was accidental and offering 12 recommendations to help prevent similar deaths. A key suggestion included training police officers to seek medical assistance when dealing with persons who are minimally responsive, even if the person is intoxicated as intoxication can mask severe head injuries. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

By Madalyn Howitt

The inquest into the 2018 death of Kugluktuk’s Austin Maniyogena came to a close Friday with the jury ruling the 22-year-old’s death was an accident and offering recommendations to prevent similar deaths.

Maniyogena died Sept. 19, 2018 from head injuries he sustained when he jumped out of a bylaw officer’s truck in Kugluktuk, after being arrested for impaired driving.

He was held in a cell at the RCMP detachment for nearly five hours while officers waited for him to sober up.

When that did not happen and his breathing and condition worsened, Maniyogena was transported to the Kugluktuk health centre and later to the Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife, N.W.T., where he died just before midnight.

The inquest highlighted a need for police officers to better appreciate the way intoxication can mask head injuries and for community bylaw officers to have a clearer understanding of their limited abilities to perform arrests.

The six-member jury offered 12 recommendations to the RCMP, the Hamlet of Kugluktuk and the Government of Nunavut’s Health Department to help prevent incidents like Maniyogena’s from happening again. Those bodies can choose which of the recommendations they will adopt.

Some key recommendations include:

  • The RCMP should review and revise training to ensure officers and civilian guards seek medical assistance when dealing with persons who are minimally responsive, regardless of whether intoxication is a factor. Also, it should revise operational manual 19.2 to require medical assessment when there are signs of a person having sustained a head injury;
  • The RCMP should provide and require officers in Nunavut to wear body cameras to document interactions with civilians, to increase transparency and build trust between the RCMP and community members. It should also provide regular sensitivity training to ensure respectful interactions and treatment of civilians;
  • The GN should review cardiac and trauma life-support training requirements for nurses who provide emergency medical care in Nunavut with a view to ensuring all community health centres have staff up to date in certification in advanced cardiac and trauma life support;
  • The GN should review policy relating to a third-party cancellation of the need for medical assistance — when a call is placed to the health centre for medical assistance, the call should remain active until a medical assessment has been conducted over the phone or in person with the client regardless of information from a third party;
  • The Hamlet of Kugluktuk should review protocols relating to bylaw enforcement to ensure bylaw officers do not engage in the arrest and transportation of prisoners in the absence of policies, training and equipment equivalent to standards required of RCMP officers;
  • The Hamlet and the GN should review the policy relating to the purpose and use of the local ambulance to ensure it is equipped and staffed accordingly.

The jury’s recommendations concluded a weeklong inquest that included emotional testimony from Maniyogena’s mother, Jennifer, who was working at the health centre when her son was brought in.

As well, there were testimonies from the arresting bylaw officer, RCMP officers and the medical experts who treated Maniyogena for his severe head trauma but were unable to save him.

The inquest was led by coroner’s counsel Sheldon Toner and presided over by Nunavut chief coroner Khen Sagadraca, and included legal counsel for the RCMP, the Northwest Territories and the GN’s Department of Health.

Inquests are mandatory for deaths that occur while a person is in police custody, according to Nunavut’s Coroners Act. They do not determine the guilt or innocence of anyone involved in the incident.


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