Another baby death in Nunavut under investigation

Nunavut's minister of health says his department and the coroner's office are investigating another baby death, this time in Arviat.

Death of a baby in Arviat is not deemed a ‘critical incident’ says health minister

The beach in the hamlet of Arviat. An investigation is underway following the death of a baby in the community of about 2,400. (Ryan O'Connor)

Nunavut's minister of health says his department and the coroner's office are investigating another baby death, this time in Arviat. 

The baby was under the age of one, similar to the baby who died in Gjoa Haven on July 4, said Minister George Hickes. 

The department of health reported the death in Gjoa Haven as a "critical incident," and has sent support staff to assist the community cope with the tragedy.

The situation in Arviat is different, said Hickes, adding that support staff were not sent to the community.

'When the results are in from the investigation we’ll be speaking to the family and community,' says Health Minister George Hickes. (CBC)
"I don't think the circumstances were that similar," said Hickes. "It wasn't deemed a critical incident to my knowledge."

No additional information on the two cases will be released, said Hickes, until the investigations are concluded, which could happen in the next few weeks. 

"I can assure you that when the results are in... we'll be speaking to the family and community and going from there."

Hickes stressed that the health department investigates any death of a person under the age of one in the territory.

The coroner's office investigates any death under the age of five.

'Personally on top of this investigation'

Hickes said the department is taking the investigation into the "critical incident" in Gjoa Haven "very seriously."

"I'm personally on top of this investigation as well as my senior staff."

Hickes added that his department has made improvements since receiving the recommendations from the report examining the circumstances surrounding the 2012 death of three-month-old Makibi Timilak in Cape Dorset.

The report  prompted a coroner's inquest and an apology from the Nunavut government.

Hickes said his department has implemented all 47 recommendations from the report.

"This investigation will be done completely," he said. "We're very open. We want to make sure we maintain our transparency and our trust in the public." 

Heartfelt condolences

Hickes expressed his heartfelt condolences for the families, but also noted his sympathy for staff.

"When there is an event like this it's very traumatic on the family, on the community, but [also] on the staff," he said. 

"From a health care standpoint, it's traumatic for them as well."

Hickes added that he is confident in Nunavut's health workers. 

"People go into the medical profession because they care about people, and I have the utmost confidence in the staff that we have, and the support that they have been given through this individual tragedy."

About the Author

Sima Sahar Zerehi

Sima Sahar Zerehi is a reporter with CBC North. She started her career in journalism with the ethnic press working for a Canadian-based Farsi language newspaper. Her CBC journey began as a regular commentator with CBC radio's Metro Morning. Since then she's worked with CBC in Montreal, Toronto and now Iqaluit.