Thunder Bay police monitoring First Nations student deaths inquest, lawyer says

Thunder Bay police are clarifying the status of their investigation into the 2009 death of Kyle Morriseau.

'If it is actionable, it will be acted upon,' lawyer Brian Gover says of evidence at inquest

Thunder Bay police lawyer Brian Gover says police may review their communications protocols when it comes to relaying information to families in remote communities. (Martine Laberge/Radio-Canada)

Thunder Bay police are clarifying the status of their investigation into the 2009 death of Kyle Morriseau.

Kyle Morriseau, 17, is one of seven students from remote First Nations who died while attending high school in Thunder Bay.

A senior police officer testified at the inquest this week that the investigation into Morriseau's death remains open, despite notations on police files that it is "complete, solved, not criminal."

The notations are "for the investigation status itself," Insp. Don Lewis told the inquest on Thursday morning. "It doesn't mean it's closed."

Christian Morriseau (l) with his 15-year-old son Brett, says the First Nations student deaths inquest has left him with more questions about how his son Kyle died in Thunder Bay in 2009. (Jody Porter/CBC)
Lewis said he could not explain why documents in the case were incorrectly labelled.

"In the absence of any new leads, there are many cases that will remain open but not actively investigated," said Brian Gover, who represents the Thunder Bay police service and its leadership at the inquest.

"The case has not been cleared, it remains open, but there do not exist grounds to believe anyone has committed a criminal offence," Gover said. 

Police testimony on Wednesday revealed three different theories investigators have about who might be responsible for Morriseau's death. 

Christa Big Canoe says the Morriseau family was upset by information revealed by police at the First Nations student deaths inquest this week. (Martine Laberge/CBC)
The theories came as a surprise to Morriseau's father, who told CBC News he heard them for the first time at the inquest.
"To hear that the case is open, to hear that there's different theories about how he possibly died, obviously upset the family," said Christa Big Canoe, the Morriseau family's lawyer.

Gover said police may review their communications protocols as a result of the inquest.

'Especially families in remote communities, there may be some communications challenges," Gover said. "We'll await the [inquest] jury's recommendations in that respect."

During his testimony on Thursday, Lewis was asked if he was aware of testimony already heard at the inquest that may discount one of the police theories.

"I wasn't aware of what transpired during this inquest," Lewis said. "I appreciate the information you're putting forward."

Thunder Bay police leadership, including the police chief, are updated everyday about what is happening at the inquest, Gover said.

"If, through this process, anything arises that is of interest to the investigators, it will certainly be brought to their attention and if it is actionable, it will be acted upon," he said.