Saskatchewan

Corrections minister says review coming in release of Kimberly Squirrel, found frozen in Saskatoon

Corrections Minister Christine Tell says she and Justice Minister Gordon Wyant have asked for a review of the circumstances that led up to Squirrel’s release from Pine Grove Correctional Centre last month, just days before her frozen body was found in Saskatoon.

34-year-old mom was found dead in Saskatoon, 3 days after being released from Pine Grove Correctional Centre

Kimberly Squirrel, 34, was found dead in Saskatoon on Jan. 23. Saskatchewan Corrections Minister Christine Tell said she and Justice Minister Gordon Wyant have requested a review into the circumstances surrounding Squirrel's release from Pine Grove. (Submitted by Kara Squirrel)

Further investigations are coming into the death of Kimberly Squirrel.

The frozen body of the 34-year-old mother of six from Yellow Quill First Nation was found in a residential area of Saskatoon late last month. She had been released from Pine Grove Correctional Centre in Prince Albert three days before.

Her family is waiting for autopsy results, but previously told CBC it is their understanding that she froze to death.

In an emailed statement Thursday, Saskatchewan Corrections and Policing Minister Christine Tell said she and Justice Minister Gordon Wyant have requested a review into the circumstances surrounding Squirrel's release from Pine Grove.

That review will be done in addition to investigations that are being conducted by the Saskatoon Police Service and the Saskatchewan Coroners Service, the Thursday statement said.

The woman's family previously told CBC News they felt she would still be alive if they had been told she was going to be released.

Saskatchewan's Ministry of Corrections says "it is up to the individual to decide what level of involvement their family may have in their release."

"They have absolutely no right to be sharing her personal information with the family, they're caught between a rock and a hard place also," said Patti Tait, the acting executive director at the Elizabeth Fry Society of Saskatchewan.

Tait said her organization will often encourage inmates to reach out to family and seek help, but the organization hasn't been allowed inside a provincial facility since the pandemic started.

What exactly happened between Squirrel's release and when she died is not clear, but her sister told CBC News when Squirrel was found on Jan. 23, she was wearing thin clothes.

Advocates for people involved in the justice and corrections system told CBC Squirrel's death exposes gaps in Saskatchewan's correctional system. Squirrel was on remand before her release, meaning she was facing charges but had not been convicted. 

"Ministry officials work diligently to ensure these individuals have access to the supports and programming they may need," Tell's Thursday statement said. 

"This can at times be a challenge, but we are committed to working with our sector partners to address these issues and improve the outcomes for those who come into contact with the justice system."

With files from Morgan Modjeski and Emily Pasiuk

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