APTN NATIONAL NEWS (APTN-TV), Winnipeg, 11 Sep 08
Anchor/Reporters: NOLA WUTTUNEE
NOLA WUTTUNEE (APTN-TV): A pre-inquest hearing into the deaths of two young men from the Kasheshewan First Nations has now been postponed. The postponement happened yesterday when the legalities of the inquest came into question.
Ricardo Wesley and James Goodwin died in 2006 when a Kasheshewan jail burned to the ground. An inquest into those deaths was supposed to get underway in October in Northern Ontario.
This week, the families of the men went to Toronto, arguing for a change of venue. APTN’s Harmony Rice has more on that story.
HARMONY RICE (Reporter): The inquest into the jail fire that killed the two young aboriginal men in 2006 was set to begin on October 20th in Cochrane, Ontario.
Originally, the inquest was supposed to last three to four months. It was supposed to look into the substandard conditions, like these found in jails across Northern Ontario. It was also supposed to look into broader issues around policing agreements, funding, community safety and systemic racism. But recently that all changed and a pre-inquest hearing was convened to deal with a series of motions related to the inquest. That hearing ended abruptly Tuesday, when it was discovered the inquest couldn’t proceed until there are changes made to the jury pool.
JULIAN FALCONER (Family Lawyer): But what is now a major legal sticking point that really transcends this inquest… it affects the justice system in general, is it’s become clear, as a result of an affidavit from a services manager for the Ministry of the Attorney General that the territorial district of Kenora, in how they pick juries… the jury roles that they create aren’t not necessarily legal. That means they aren’t compliant with the Juries Act.
HARMONY RICE: With only 45 aboriginal people on the jury roll for the district and none from Kasheshewan, Julian says it is unlikely the inquest will begin as planned on October 20th.
JULIAN FALCONER: Specifically, they do not have a full list of First Nations. Therefore… and in fact it’s the opposite; they have very few First Nations community members of the jury rolls. And therefore, far from representative juries under the law being the rule, it’s the opposite. What we have is First Nations excluded across the board within the territorial district of Kenora.
HARMONY RICE: Nishnawbe Aski Nation Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler says it raises questions about how well-served First Nation communities are by the public agencies responsible for community safety.
ALVIN FIDDLER (Deputy Grand Chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation): It’s always been an issue of chronic under-funding for police services… for Nishnawbe Aski Police to deliver a service that their communities deserve. And that’s something that we hope this inquest will shed a light on, is... is just the historic under-funding… and I would say neglect on the part of the province and Canada, to ensure that our police service are able to provide a service that our communities deserve.
HARMONY RICE: Falconer says, given what happened this week, the whole inquest system for First Nations in Ontario is in limbo. Fiddler says the community of Kasheshewan will just have to wait until the legal issues around the inquest are sorted out.
Harmony Rice, APTN National News, Toronto.
POINTS NORTH (CBCS-FM), Sudbury, 08 Sep 08
Anchor/Reporters: DAN LESSARD
ANCHOR (CBCS-FM): A Deputy Grand Chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation says the family of one of the men who died in the Kashechewan jail fire in 2006 is seeking a change of venue for the inquest. Alvin Fiddler says one of the issues at a pre-inquest hearing is a request from the family of Ricardo Wesley to hold the inquest in a bigger city than Cochrane.
The reason is that the family wants more public and media attention focused on the conditions in Kashechewan. Wesley and James Goodwin were burned to death in the fire that consumed the First Nation police station on January 8, 2006. The inquest is currently scheduled for October 20th in Cochrane.
The Canadian Press - September 16, 2008
THUNDER BAY — Just a week after an affidavit was filed with a coroner's inquest about shortcomings in aboriginal representation on the Kenora district jury list, the situation is popping up in other cases.
Daniel Brodsky, a Toronto lawyer representing a man convicted of murder in Kenora in 2005, said he will use the revelations as another ground for appeal for James Kakegamic.
Mr. Brodsky said he'd had an inkling during that trial's jury selection - no one on the jury list was from a native reserve - that something was amiss, but had no evidence at the time, so his request for action by the judge was dismissed.
"That fills in all the blanks," he said yesterday, adding he will be making an application to enter it as fresh evidence.
Mr. Brodsky, a founding member of the Association in Defence of the Wrongfully Convicted, said he has dealt with an incomplete jury roll in Kenora before.
In the early 1990s while representing a Sandy Lake First Nation man, he asked the trial judge to order a report on the perceived problem that the district's jury pool wasn't representative of the area's population.
The request was refused, Mr. Brodsky said, but the judge asked the sheriff, responsible for assembling the jury pool, to gather representation from all segments of the district.
Mr. Brodsky said his understanding was that as a result of Mr. Justice Erwin Stach's direction to the sheriff, things improved, until he arrived in a Kenora court in 2005.
The sheriff's office in Kenora, said Mr. Brodsky, had since been disbanded.
In the midst of the 2005 trial, Mr. Brodsky contacted the Chiefs of Ontario, who said they were studying the matter.
The provincial government, argued the Mr. Brodsky, has an immediate duty to ensure the jury roll is properly prepared.
"It's what gives legitimacy to the jury trial process," he said.
Nishnawbe Aski Nation deputy grand chief Alvin Fiddler said a problem with aboriginal representation on the Kenora district jury roll was not a total surprise.
"It's something we've suspected all along," said Mr. Fiddler, adding that an aboriginal person sitting on a jury is a "very rare event."
"It's troubling," said Mr. Fiddler, who was in Toronto last week for the pre-inquest motions that gave rise to the jury roll confusion.
NAN and Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto have jointly asked the province's Attorney-General for a formal inquiry into the matter.
Currently, 44 band members, from among an aboriginal population of 12,000, are on the Kenora jury roll.