Edward Snowshoe's mother seeks redress from federal justice minister
N.W.T.-born inmate died after months spent in solitary confinement
The mother of an inmate who died by suicide in prison after spending 162 days in solitary confinement is asking the new justice minister to "act and provide redress."
Edward Snowshoe died in a maximum security facility in Edmonton in 2010 while serving five years for an armed robbery in Inuvik, N.W.T. A 2014 Alberta fatality inquiry found the 24-year-old "fell through the cracks," and that none of the corrections staff was aware of how long he had been in segregation.
Corrections officers also said they were not aware of his three previous suicide attempts at a prison in Manitoba.
"There is great reason for hope in the future with a Kwakwaka'wakw woman in a position to facilitate access to justice for indigenous peoples in Canada," Effie Snowshoe writes in an open letter to Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould.
"I respectfully call upon you to act and provide redress for the harms that have been caused," she goes on to say.
"As the eldest of four sons, Eddie was our provider. His absence in our family is felt every day. To date there has been no redress for this from Canada and no support for my family and me."
Snowshoe writes that solitary confinement is used disproportionately against indigenous people and the mentally ill.
"The loss of a child is not something that can ever be fully repaired, nor can the pain of knowing the suffering they had to endure be fully relieved," she writes. "But there is a concrete opportunity here for the new federal government to act on its promise of reconciliation, and for you to facilitate healing and justice."
Snowshoe doesn't specify what particular action she'd like to see, but she does hint at further legal actions.
"If there is a continued failure of Canada to act, then I must consider all options available for bringing justice and healing."
A spokeswoman for the justice minister said in an email: "We are aware of Ms. Snowshoe's letter and have expressed our sincere sympathies to her and her family."
The email goes on to say the minister's mandate directs her to review the changes in the criminal justice system and sentencing reforms over the past decade "with a view to, among other things, reducing the rate of incarceration amongst Indigenous Canadians."
It will also include reviewing the government's response to the Ashley Smith inquest, "regarding the restriction of the use of administrative segregation and the treatment of those with mental illness."