Montreal police find Inuk woman who went missing after being released from custody
Questions remain about the circumstances of 48-year-old Mina Iquasiak Aculiak's disappearance
An Inuk woman who went missing for several days after she was released from Montreal police custody has been found safe and in good health, according to police.
Mina Iquasiak Aculiak, 48, had been missing since Friday before being found by an off-duty police officer at the corner of Crémazie Boulevard and Bloomfield Avenue, Thursday.
However, there are still questions about the circumstances surrounding her disappearance.
Before she was reported missing, Aculiak had been staying at the Gingras-Lindsay rehabilitation centre in Côte-des-Neiges.
She was arrested around 6 p.m. Friday when personnel from the centre called police to pick her up because she was intoxicated.
Police transported her from the centre to a police station on Thimens Boulevard in Saint-Laurent, almost 10 kilometres away, where she was allowed to sober up, according to Insp. André Durocher.
Durocher confirmed that around midnight, police gave her a bus ticket and sent her on her way. That was the last time anyone saw her.
Durocher said according to protocol, people who are detained and released are allowed to call someone to pick them up, or are given a bus ticket if they are not a danger to themselves or others.
It's too soon to know why the woman wasn't brought back to the rehabilitation centre after she sobered up, he said.
It is also unclear whether the centre was contacted before she was released.
Aculiak was checked out by paramedics and transferred to a local hospital for evaluation.
Woman was hit by police vehicle months ago
The reason Aculiak was in Montreal in the first place was because she was brought to the city for medical attention.
Members of her community confirmed that Aculiak is the same woman who was hit by a police vehicle in her hometown of Umiujaq in April.
Umiujaq is a northern village in Nunavik, Que.
It's unclear what circumstances led up to Aculiak being hit by the police cruiser.
Quebec's police watchdog (BEI) originally didn't plan to investigate the incident because they were told she only suffered a broken arm.
However, a report by La Presse revealed her injuries were much more serious — broken ribs, a lacerated liver and kidney, fractured vertebrates and a punctured lung. She was transported to Montreal to be treated for her injuries.
Hours after the La Presse story was published, the BEI announced it would investigate the case after all.
Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said at the time the story was published that he was worried the BEI initially disregarded the woman's injuries because she is Inuk.
Mayor calls situation 'unacceptable'
On Thursday morning, speaking at a news conference before Aculiak was found, Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante called the situation "unacceptable."
"We don't want someone who is already in a vulnerable situation to become even more at risk," she said.
"The SPVM is doing an inquiry on what happened and I think it's a good opportunity for them to question, or to revise, some of the procedures around those cases."
Nakuset, executive director at the Native Women's Shelter, told CBC Montreal's Daybreak Thursday morning that the woman was being "re-victimized by police."
She said it was "appalling" that officers lost track of her after she was released from custody and called it "a perfect example of how Indigenous people fall through the cracks."
Nakuset questioned why the police didn't return her to the rehabilitation centre or contact a local shelter or community service.
Police originally issued a notice about the woman's disappearance early Thursday morning. It said police were concerned about finding the woman because they believed she may be suicidal.
Insp. Durocher told CBC that it would surprise him if the officers let Aculiak go knowing she was potentially suicidal.
He said the force is now trying to figure out whether the officer who authorized Aculiak's release evaluated her physical and mental health beforehand.
"If she was in proper condition when released, our role stops there. We cannot be held responsible for the fate of people one day, one month, one year after they are released."
With files from CBC's Lauren McCallum and Radio-Canada