Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie says his government is still open to the possibility of holding a public inquiry into the 2008 death of Raymond Silverfox in RCMP custody.
The issue surfaced in the Yukon legislature during question period late Wednesday, after Liberal Opposition Leader Arthur Mitchell renewed demands that the government hold a full inquiry.
"It reserved that right and option at a later date, once the Crown prosecutor has done its work -- because there may very well be criminal charges coming out of that work," Fentie responded in the legislature.
Silverfox, 43, died in hospital after he had been kept in the Whitehorse RCMP detachment's drunk tank for more than 13 hours on Dec. 2, 2008.
His family has asked the Yukon Supreme Court to review the findings of a coroner's inquest, held last month, that concluded Silverfox had died of natural causes.
Testimony from the inquest revealed that RCMP officers and guards did not seek medical help for Silverfox as he lay in a pool of his own vomit and excrement during his 13 hours in custody.
Some officers and guards even mocked and jeered at Silverfox, the inquest heard. He died in hospital of acute pneumonia, which a medical expert testified was likely the result of Silverfox inhaling his vomit.
Lawyer calls for inquiry
Earlier on Wednesday, Canadian civil-rights lawyer Clayton Ruby told CBC News that he agrees with the family's demands for a full public inquiry into Silverfox's death and his treatment by the RCMP.
Speaking in the legislature that afternoon, Mitchell said opposition MLAs had put forward a motion demanding a public inquiry on April 28, but government MLAs adjourned debate on that motion.
"The refusal to call a public inquiry to look into this matter has become national news in this country," Mitchell said.
"It has even caught the attention of prominent Canadian civil-rights lawyer Clayton Ruby. He is of the opinion the government should call a public inquiry into this matter."
In a recent video statement, Yukon RCMP Supt. Peter Clark said Crown prosecutors will go through transcripts of audio footage from the guardroom and cellblock on the day Silverfox died, in order to determine whether criminal charges are warranted.
Family suing officers, guards
Silverfox's family has filed a civil lawsuit against the individual officers and guards who were on duty when he died. The lawsuit also names the RCMP and the Canadian Corps of Commissionaires, which employs the guards.
The coroner's inquest into Silverfox's death prompted the Yukon government to launch a review of policing in the territory.
Thirteen members were named on Wednesday to the review committee, which is being chaired by Clark and deputy justice minister Dennis Cooley.
Meanwhile, the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP is continuing its own investigation into Silverfox's death.
A spokesperson for the commission told CBC News that it will be examining testimony from the inquest. The commission expects to release its findings in early July.
The commission has also agreed to help with the Yukon government's policing review.