On Wednesday, September 16, Chief Coroner for Ontario Dr. Dirk Huyer announced that the inquest into the deaths of 7 First Nations Youth will begin at 9:30 a.m. on Monday, October 5 at a location within Thunder Bay.
After a large number of delays, the inquest is estimated to hear from 200 witnesses in October 2015 and again in March 2016, and will be live streamed on the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services website.
The deaths of the seven youth occurred while attending secondary school in Thunder Bay away from their homes and families, and over the course of several years since 2000.
Jethro Anderson 15, Reggie Bushie 15, Jordan Wabasse 15, Curran Strang 18 and Kyle Morriseau 17 allegedly drowned in waters near Lake Superior while Robyn Harper 19 and Paul Panacheese 21 died of overdoses; each from the Nishnawbe Aski Nation Territory and some as far as 700 kilometres away from home.
The joint inquest took 3 long years to be called due to a battle to improve aboriginal representation on juries; but the inquest hopes to provide solid and important recommendations to prevent future deaths of students that desire to seek education for better opportunities.
Christa Big Canoe of Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto , which is representing the family members of the seven youths, told the Toronto Star that the inquest is a positive sign that inequalities and fundamental issues facing indigenous people are finally being taken seriously.
“The youth go to school to get a better education, to increase opportunity, to bring good skills back home – and the concern is: How safe are they when they’re there?” She asked.