Yukon Supreme Court will hear arguments on Sept. 10 for a judicial review of the inquest findings in the death of Raymond Silverfox, who had spent 13 hours in a Whitehorse RCMP cell.
Silverfox, 43, a member of the Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, died on Dec. 2, 2008. During 13 hours in the Whitehorse RCMP detachment's drunk tank, he was ridiculed and left to lie in his own vomit and excrement as he threw up 26 times before being sent to hospital, where he died of acute pneumonia, a coroner's inquest heard in April.
Yukon coroner Sharon Hanley ruled that Silverfox died of natural causes.
On Friday, the family was glad to hear that the Yukon Supreme Court will hear their arguments in favour of a judicial review of Hanley's findings.
"We just could not accept the verdict that Raymond died of natural causes," said Debbie Silverfox, his sister. "How he spent his last hours — it was just unacceptable."
The whole inquest process was flawed, she said.
"None of the family knew anything prior to the inquest and that's when we found out the details and the horrifying events that took place prior to Raymond's death," she said, calling the experience "very shocking and very traumatic."
Investigation needs to be reviewed: family's lawyer
Andre Roothman, the Silverfox family's lawyer, said he will argue for a review that includes the coroner's investigation, not just the inquest proceedings.
"The scope of the judicial review is important," he said, arguing that Hanley relied too heavily on the RCMP investigation of the death. "Using the RCMP in the specific case where somebody died in RCMP custody is a big problem for us."
He also has questions about the relationship between the coroner and the RCMP.
"It's a very small community and it's too tight a relationship, you know, especially when somebody dies in RCMP custody, for the coroner to be using the RCMP."
Debbie Silverfox said her family hopes their efforts will create change in the future.
Their spirits have been strengthened by the latest developments, she said.
"We look forward to Sept. 10," she said. "I think justice will be done."