The sons of Moses Beaver tell their requests

Nabil Anas
Nabil Anas

Global Courant 2023-05-08 23:00:00

WARNING: This story is about sexual abuse, mental distress and suicide.

Over the past three weeks, the jury examining the inquest into the 2017 death of Moses Amik Beaver has heard numerous calls for better mental health care in remote First Nations and the Thunder Bay District Jail, as well as a reminder that many of what witnesses have recommended has been heard before.

Beaver, a Woodlands artist from Nibinamik, an Oji-Cree First Nation in northwestern Ontario, was 56 when he committed suicide while in custody. The inquest – required under the Ontario Coroner’s Act when a person dies in custody – is entering its fourth week.

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Since 2002, 13 people have died in prison. At least seven of them were indigenous. Investigations have been completed in 10 of those cases. The most recent was the joint inquest into the deaths of Don Mamakwa and Roland McKay that ended in November.

Those studies produced hundreds of recommendations, but many of them went unimplemented, according to a CBC News review of the eight studies completed between 2002 and 2020.

Anna Betty Achneepineskum, deputy grand chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, testified last week — as did Beaver’s family — at the inquest into the artist’s death.

Achneepineskum said she would like to know why many of the recommendations that came from previous studies have not been implemented.

Family say concerns have been dismissed by police and prison staff

Nishnawbe Aski Nation, representing 49 First Nations in Northern Ontario, has itself issued numerous recommendations, resolutions and reports over the years regarding the challenges facing First Nations, including mental health crises, Achneepineskum testified.

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“We continue to advocate for the federal and provincial government to… address inequality in terms of the lack of resources and services for First Nation citizens because this is not just isolated to the citizens of Nishnawbe Aski Nation – this is anywhere in Canada.”

That inequality, she said, is deeply entrenched at the institutional level.

“You have to remember that Indian law, which is one of the most, I would say, racial laws, is the basis of the policies that exist within each of the government departments where a First Nation citizen is involved,” she said . said.

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Beaver’s eldest sons, Gershom, Shallum and Jerome Beaver, together addressed the jury on Thursday. They spoke of their father’s kindness, his skills on the land, and his artistic talent.

Since my father’s death (2017), the legal system and the way Indigenous people are cared for when they are sick has not changed.– Gershom Beaver testifies at the inquest of his father Moses Beaver

They showed videos of their father explaining how to smoke meat and describing what he loved about running art workshops in schools before the three showed some of his artwork on a large screen at the front of the room.

The brothers also spoke about the trauma their father suffered, including several losses in his family and his experiences at day school, where they say he was sexually assaulted.

Gershom said he and Shallum tried several times in 2017 to get their father from Thunder Bay Prison to the hospital, but staff seemed to allay their concerns.

When Shallum was previously in Thunder Bay Prison, he said, an inmate two blocks away committed suicide. That experience fueled his fear that his father would suffer the same fate.

“I knew how important it was that he got the right help,” said Shallum.

According to Gershom Beaver of Nibinamik First Nation, about 80 percent of homes in northern Ontario First Nation are “not livable.” (Ed Middleton/CBC)

The brothers were told that their father was on suicide watch as of February 9, 2017, but the Correctional Service Oversight and Investigations (CSOI) report on Beaver’s death shows that he was taken off suicide watch on January 24, 2017, and subsequently deleted. of enhanced supervision on 8 February 2017.

“Since my father’s death, the legal system and the way Indigenous people are cared for when they are sick has not changed,” Gershom said.

Nibinamik First Nation, 385 miles northeast of Sioux Lookout and 500 miles north of Thunder Bay, also faces multiple challenges, including a lack of mental health training with no center to facilitate it, a small, outdated nursing station, and dangerous living conditions .

“Eighty percent of the homes we have in our community are not livable and would be condemned anywhere else in Canada off a reservation,” Gershom said. “When it rains outside, it rains inside. The mold is so bad my brother almost lost three fingers on one of his hands and my dad needed a puffer to breathe.”

Gershom said he moved to Thunder Bay a decade ago because of the fungus’s impact on his son.

“Anishinabek faces grief and trauma with little to no help; we just walk on and hope for the best.”

Concerns over Beaver’s treatment in prison: CSOI report

Last week, the jury saw the May 2017 CSOI report on Beaver’s death. Among the documented concerns were:

Beaver did not see a psychiatrist until three weeks after being taken to Thunder Bay Prison. Prison staff logs did not meet the Department’s standards for recording entries. There was a general lack of documentation and attention to detail about Beaver’s healthcare system. file by qualified nurses and general practitioners. After Beaver’s suicide watch was lifted, his reintegration plan was not properly completed. Beaver’s breathing should have been assisted with a ventilator when he became unresponsive in prison.

Although Beaver died by suicide while in administrative segregation, the CSOI report does not include an assessment of the prison’s policies and procedures regarding segregation, the coroner’s jury heard.

Needs audit of previous recommendations: NAN

Achneepineskum’s recommendations to the jury include safe rooms with adequate resources in First Nations, sustainable funding for Telehealth Ontario and personal care, and access to not only Western medicine, but also traditional knowledge custodians and the elderly.

She also raised the idea of ​​having mobile mental health teams visit First Nations for a week to provide thorough assessments and referrals to other services.

But as the jury prepares its own set of recommendations, Achneepineskum said there should be accountability for what hasn’t been implemented in the past — and answers why.

“We could do a very thorough audit and we could use that as we continue to lobby for funding and resources, and also get our communities to accept and embrace certain initiatives,” she said.

A primary goal of the coroner’s inquests is for the jury to come up with recommendations to prevent deaths in similar circumstances.

“(Moses) being deprived of proper medical services — including a comfortable home, a safe house where he can live — had an impact on him,” Achneepineskum told the jury.

“Just remember he was a person who needed help, and he was a father, and a grandfather, and a husband, and a son.”

If you or someone you know is struggling, get help here:

Support is available to anyone affected by their residential school experience:

A national crisis line for Indian residential schools has been set up to support former students and those affected. People can access emotional and crisis referral services by calling the 24-hour National Crisis Line: 1-866-925-4419.

The sons of Moses Beaver tell their requests

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