Quebec coroner investigates deaths of two Inuuk women struck on Montreal highways

MONTREAL _ The Quebec coroner is investigating the deaths of two Inuuk women in their 20s who were hit by cars within a 24-hour period last week on separate Montreal highways.

Mary-Jane Tulugak and Nellie Niviaxie had travelled to Montreal for medical reasons and had been staying at the Ullivik health centre, which is overseen by the health board in Nunavik, the northern Quebec territory where the two women were from.

Tulugak, 22, and Niviaxie, 26, were struck on highways not far from the Ullivik centre, Kathleen Poulin, spokesperson with the Nunavik Health Board, said Tuesday. The centre has been open since 2016 and is a place to stay for Inuit who are in need of special care or who are accompanying someone receiving medical treatment.

“The location of Ullivik remains strategic: it is near the airport ? and the area is quiet,” Poulin said in an email.

“There are sidewalks in the surrounding streets, and no need to approach the highways.”

Police said they received a call on Friday around 4:15 a.m. about a woman in a wheelchair who was struck by a vehicle on a highway in Dorval, a city on the Island of Montreal. Tulugak, from Puvirnituq, Nunavik, was transported to hospital with serious injuries and later confirmed dead.

Less than 24 hours later, around 1:15 a.m. on Saturday, a second woman was struck multiple times on a nearby but separate highway, provincial police Sgt. Nicolas Scholtus said Tuesday. Niviaxie, from Umiujaq, Nunavik, was declared dead at the scene.

Scholtus said that officers are investigating how both women were on the highway so early in the morning and whether the two incidents are related.

Poulin said guests are allowed to leave the lodging centre if their health allows it, but “several security guards monitor the ins and outs of the guests.”

“Ullivik management, despite being in mourning, is looking at what more can be done to ensure the safety of guests on foot who are outside the establishment’s perimeter,” she said.

“It should be noted that security is already very present, and that the centre is in contact with the Montreal police, who regularly make rounds around the establishment.”

A spokesperson for the coroner’s office confirmed on Tuesday that investigations have been ordered on the deaths of the two women.

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