A coroner's jury has released 21 recommendations following an inquest into the death of Gloria Assin, a 42-year-old mother who was killed while handcuffed in the back seat of an Ontario Provincial Police vehicle that crashed in Kenora in 2012.
The recommendations, released late Thursday, call on the OPP to update its policy on seatbelts and have officers take Indigenous history, intercultural competency and anti-racism training.
During the inquest, which began Monday in Kenora, jurors heard that early in the morning of Sept. 23, 2012, Assin came across two OPP officers downtown. The officers determined that Assin was intoxicated and should be arrested for her own safety.
The officers put Assin in the back seat of the police SUV, without a seatbelt on, the inquest heard.
After stopping at a red light, the SUV entered an intersection where it was hit by a tractor-trailer. Both officers survived the crash, but Assin died almost instantly.
Assin, a mother of four, was from the Grassy Narrows First Nation but was staying in Kenora at the time of her death.
OPP officer later charged
The driver of the OPP vehicle, Const. Troy Bender, was originally charged with dangerous driving causing death. He subsequently pleaded guilty to careless driving under the Highway Traffic Act and was fined about $1,100.
The coroner's jury also recommended that the Kenora OPP branch reduce their use of Section 31(5) of Ontario's Liquor Licence Act, which allows police to make an arrest if "necessary for the safety of any person."
Assin's death may have been prevented if she had not been treated as a criminal, said lawyers from Aboriginal Legal Services who represented her family at the inquest.
"The expert evidence in this case showed that a response that focuses on people's health is more successful than simply arresting people," lawyer Caitlyn Kasper stated in a release Friday.
"We are pleased that the jury's recommendations call on community partners in Kenora to ensure that services are available when people who are dealing with trauma, crisis, and addiction need them. This will result in fewer arrests and is aimed at preventing similar deaths in the future."