Felix Taqqaugaq inquest: Priest recalls a good father who struggled with mental health

Bishop Anthony Krotki testified Thursday at the inquest into the death of Felix Taqqaugaq, who was shot by police in his home in Igloolik in 2012.

Taqqaugaq had paranoia, visions of blood, in the months before fatal encounter with police

Igloolik, pop. 1,900, lies on a small island in Foxe Basin. The coroner's inquest into the shooting death, by police, of Felix Taqqaugaq, began earlier this week. (Nick Murray/CBC)

Felix Taqqaugaq was a troubled man who was frightened, saw visions and battled inner demons. But he was also trustworthy, a good father and a man who needed help with his mental health.

Those details emerged Thursday from the priest who was with Taqqaugaq in his final moments. He was testifying on day three of the coroner's inquest into the 30-year-old's shooting death by police in Igloolik in 2012.  

Bishop Anthony Krotki was the parish priest in Igloolik in 2012 (and has since been promoted to bishop). He testified he and Taqqaugaq spoke every couple of months and that he was close with Taqqaugaq's family.

"He would react quickly and he was a very strong person, but I never had to worry about him," Krotki said, adding he felt safe around Taqqaugaq. "I was very confident every time we met."

The Lord's Prayer

In their talks, Krotki said Taqqaugaq told him he had visions of blood, and was worried somebody was after him. Earlier testimony from other witnesses revealed Taqqaugaq had schizophrenia.

The night Taqqaugaq was shot, Krotki got a call that something had happened. He didn't know what, but he went to the health centre right away.

When he got there, he saw Taqqaugaq's family and they took him into the room where Taqqaugaq was lying, and together they prayed.

"We said the Lord's Prayer together. The family was emotional at that time," Krotki said. "Felix did not follow with a loud voice. I imagine he had difficulty breathing."

When they finished praying, Krotki left to let the nurses work. It's the last time he saw Taqqaugaq alive.

Still unclear whether officer will testify in person

Thursday's proceedings were delayed by half a day as the morning was spent dealing with legal issues that could have an impact on the way the inquest will play out.

The lawyer representing the Taqqaugaq family, Anne Crawford, has filed an application to quash several decisions made by Nunavut coroner Padma Suramala.

Those include her decision to allow one of the two officers involved with the shooting to testify by video due to medical reasons, and her decision to give standing to the Ottawa Police Service, who oversaw the RCMP's investigation into the shooting.

Huddled around a speakerphone at Igloolik's health centre, the lawyers briefed Justice Beverley Browne on the issues.

Suramala's lawyer, Sheldon Toner, argued it was more important to move the inquest along than to have the officer in question appear in person.

"I know it matters for many, many good reasons that might be relevant to allow for the community to have some reconciliation about the issues that happened," Toner said. "But in terms of the procedure and how the evidence comes in a coroner's inquest, there is allowance for [video testimony] to happen."

On whether to allow the OPS to continue to have standing at the inquest, Justice Browne expressed concern about the process of how the decision was made.

"But I do want the inquiry to proceed in a fair way. One thing that could be done is the OPS is given very strict limitations in how they can be involved. I don't think they have any involvement in the incident itself, so they shouldn't have any say about that," Browne said, noting that it's not an order since arguments haven't yet been made on the issue.

Browne said she'd rule on the applications on Monday.