TORONTO — The coroner’s inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations youth in Thunder Bay continues this week with 12 days of experts offering context to the case.
Kyle Morriseau, Paul Panacheese, Curran Strang, Jordan Wabasse, Jethro Anderson, Reggie Bushie and Robyn Harper all came from northern First Nation communities to Thunder Bay to attend high school.
Family and friends of the deceased youth previously shared they did not believe their loved ones were suicidal. However, part of the inquest is seeking to determine cause of deaths in each death as either suicide, homicide, accidental or undetermined.
Ontario Regional Chief Isadore Day said in a written statement he hopes the start of this second phase will be the beginning of answers and solutions for First Nations communities all too familiar with losing youth too soon.
Day said, “We want answers to why our young people are dying. We hope by listening and taking part of this phase of the Inquest through our youth representative Quinn Meawasige representing the Ontario First Nation Youth Peoples Council (OFNYPC) we will be further ahead in not only understanding this issue but repairing it.”
Six of the students attended Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School, a high school in Thunder Bay for First Nation students attending from northern First Nations. They were between 15 and 21 years old when they died. One youth died in 2000 and the other six youths died from 2005 to 2011.
“After watching the inquest for the past three months, it seems to me there was a lack of urgency when it came to investigating the deaths of these young people,” said Quinn Meawasige of the OFNYPC. “This type of thinking needs to change. The government has neglected on-reserve education for decades and so students leave the reserve unprepared and vulnerable – it is so unfair. First Nations youth deserve the same opportunities as other Canadian children – a good education and supportive environment.”