Quebec coroner to investigate deaths of Nunavik infants

7 babies have died in the region since January

These three baby dolls at Kuujjuaq’s Tulattavik health are used to do prenatal education and awareness for expecting families in Kuujjuaq and along the Ungava coast. (File photo by Sarah Rogers)

By Sarah Rogers

A Quebec coroner is looking into why seven infant deaths have been reported in Nunavik since the beginning of the year.

The Nunavik Police Service says it reached out to Quebec’s coroner’s office this spring because it considers that number to be higher than normal.

“One coroner has been asked to oversee those infant deaths,” said Jean-François Morin, deputy chief of operations at the Nunavik Police Service, in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

All of the police investigations into these deaths have determined they were not suspicious and the babies likely died from sudden infant death syndrome, Morin said.

Sudden infant death syndrome is an unexplained death, usually during sleep, of a child under one year old, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The coroner’s office has yet to confirm this as the cause of the deaths in Nunavik.

“In order to obtain an accurate picture of the situation, we agreed to concentrate all the deaths of these young children in the hands of a single coroner who’ll be able to get an overview of the situation,” Jake Lamotta Granato, a spokesperson for the coroner’s office, wrote in French in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

Coroner Geneviève Thériault, who works from the organization’s northern Quebec office, has been assigned to oversee the Nunavik autopsies, he said.

In fact, autopsies are always ordered in Quebec when a young child dies.

“Investigations are still ongoing to determine the causes of death,” Lamotta Granato said, noting they can take several months to complete.

“The causes and circumstances of death are disclosed when investigations are completed and investigation reports are made public.”

In SIDS cases, the cause of death is still unknown, though research has shown it could be associated with defects in the part of a baby’s brain that controls breathing and arousal from sleep, according to the U.S. Department of Health.

Health Canada says the highest risk factors for SIDS are maternal smoking during pregnancy and putting an infant to sleep on his or her stomach.

For that reason, health officials in Canada have recommended since 1993 that babies should be put to sleep on their backs.

Babies who are male, born prematurely or of a low birth weight, and Indigenous infants have a higher incidence of SIDS in Canada, says Health Canada.

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(14) Comments:

  1. Posted by Research the Amauti on

    I have heard from some people that the Amauti is dangerous for the baby as it can cut off breathing and the baby is sometimes dropped accidentally.

    This should be researched to see if the Amauti needs to be modified.

    • Posted by Truestory on

      Research the Amauti.

    • Posted by North Baffiner on

      4000 years of amauti use amongst Inuit needing more research? Which country did you come from?

      Just so dumb a remark as I have ever seen… Are jeans denim?

      • Posted by Young Mothers on

        I have seen some moms use regular southern winter parkas as amautis. The babies sweat and its not the same as a cotton amauti.
        Newborns are turned around to face outward, too, so they can breathe, in an amauti.

      • Posted by It’s more than 4000 years old on

        It’s safe to say it’s more than 4000 years old considering that the Arctic Russians use them, too. I’d say this may very well be one of the oldest traditional garments still in use since the Stone Age. Very hard to tell exactly which year it was invested because, it’s with biodegradable materials. Inuit of Canada did not invent it.

    • Posted by Huh? on

      Dangerous words..”Heard” from ” some people” can you substantiate who, when snd where? Pretty big assumptions.

  2. Posted by Nanook on

    I hope the mothers are receiving meaningful psycho-social support and grief counselling to heal from the pain they are suffering.

  3. Posted by Karen on

    True SIDS (where a baby who is sleeping in a safe sleep environemnt and passes away) is exceedingly rare, much too rare for this amount of deaths. Often, babies who pass away while sleeping are labelled as SIDS when there are in fact other factors. I wish more education was given to parents on the dangers of unsafe sleeping. Babies need to sleep alone, on their backs in their own sleep space.

  4. Posted by Spade on

    Its no secret that unfortunately Nunavut and Nunavik have some of the highest rates of cigarette smokers in the world. A quick google search will tell you that one of the most common reasons for SIDS is a pregnant mother smoking.

    Call a spade a spade.

    • Posted by Janice Evee on

      Maybe cut down on the pot smoking during pregnancy as well. I also see maybe moms with babies in the amauti while they are smoking both cigarettes and pot. I’m sure that can’t be good for them.

  5. Posted by Plastic dolls on

    Why with the plastic dolls? Just focus on the problem? The smoked, the neglect. And it’s not the Amauti , but it’s the way the younger ones use the amauti that’s concerning. Our kids are not taking care of today , it’s not rocket science to see that. Inuit are not focused on Inuit values anymore. SIDS as always been in every society, but let’s think about our own contribution to it.

  6. Posted by Ottawamiuk on

    The healthcare system in Nunavik doesn’t handle respiratory problems in infants seriously. How likely is it that each of these autopsy reports will come back with findings that support a viral respiratory infection?

    This had been happening for years. Any functioning healthcare system would have identified and adopted measures to respond more effectively to respiratory problems in infants. Better screening, better use of diagnostic imaging, or more aggressive treatment at onset of symptoms might have saved some of these children. Healthier home environments, with less substance use would also be helpful. Co sleeping is a fine habit, but when one or both parents are substance impaired, it’s dangerous. This is another common scenario in infant deaths in Nunavik.

  7. Posted by Child on driving wheel on

    If you are observant enough, you’ll see not only the misuse of how the Amauti is supposed to be used, but you’ll also see more evidence of neglect when a woman is driving a truck with a little baby if front of her, literally the child is on top of the steering wheel. It’s a common site around Nunavik, esp the larger community. That kind of ignorance is the same ignorance for other behaviours that go on to threaten the well being of the infant, SIDS included.

  8. Posted by ches on

    Baby need to have its own crib sleeping area not shared with others. Over feeding to quiet a crying child is to be not practiced. Over tired infant from playing with for long periods is not to be practiced as well, children need much more rest than older ones.

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