Family, friends question why Saskatoon woman froze to death

Family and friends say they have unanswered questions about a 22 year-old Saskatoon woman who froze to death on New Year's Eve after they say she was asked to leave the hospital.

Friends say Rudy Kishayinew was asked to leave hospital hours before she died

On New Year's Day, the body of 22-year-old Rudy Lynn Kishayinew was found outside a business a block away from St. Paul's Hospital. Her friends and family tell CBC they still have questions about the circumstances of her death. (Credit: Facebook)

Family and friends say they have unanswered questions about a 22-year-old Saskatoon woman who froze to death on New Year's Eve after they say she was asked to leave the hospital. 

When Rudy Lynn Kishayinew froze to death behind a needle exchange, she was not wearing a jacket or shoes, her sister Crystal Kishayinew says.

A number of friends and acquaintances have told CBC Kishayinew and a girlfriend were both asked to leave St. Paul's Hospital hours before the young woman's body was discovered. However, the Saskatoon Health Region said they have no record that anyone was forced to leave that night. 

Environment Canada's records show the temperature dipped to –20 C that night, with the wind chill making it feel like –33.

'What happened to this girl is not right'

"They were looking for a place to get warm," when they went to the hospital said Loretta Wilson, an elder from the Muskeg Lake Cree Nation, who first met Kishayinew at the Saskatoon Tribal Council's health centre on 20th Street West.

Wilson said the night Kishayinew died, she didn't "have a place to go."

Rudy Kishayinew posted this photo to Instagram in October with the caption 'Us.' Friends described her as 'a beautiful person' who will be missed. (Instagram)
"She was just coming in there to warm up, to stay alive," said Wilson. 

"It would have been different if she was loud and obnoxious and making a big scene. Maybe they would have called the cops if she had done that.

"What happened to this girl is not right," Wilson added.

CBC News has asked the Saskatoon Health Region to clarify how security guards at the inner-city hospital handle cases where people are asked to leave in inclement weather.

"Emergency departments and hospitals are busy places and often contain patients and visitors in waiting room areas," a health region spokesman said in an email.

"As for security services, they work in extremely challenging situations and make decisions daily with the goal of keeping hundreds of patients, families, staff and community members who access our facilities safe every day."

The health region turned down a request by CBC News on Wednesday to screen surveillance footage from New Year's Eve. A statement on Thursday said the health region would be providing the surveillance footage to police as part of the coroner's investigation. 

The Ministry of Social Services' cold weather strategy was in place and there was a shelter bed available that night, according to the government. 

No foul play, police say

Four days after Kishayinew's death, police issued a news release which said "based on the results along with evidence from the scene and interviews conducted by the Saskatoon Police Service, investigators have determined that foul play was not involved."

Rudy Kishayinew's lifeless body was found a few steps away from the Saskatoon Tribal Council's health centre on New Year's Day. (CBC)
Saskatchewan's Office of the Chief Coroner said it's still waiting for toxicology results before it can conclude what caused Kishayinew's death.

Its investigations typically take four to six months.

Friends of Kishayinew described her as "a beautiful person" and told CBC she will be missed. Some said they plan to hold a vigil in her honour on Friday evening.

"When she walked out of [St. Paul's] she was probably half-frozen, it didn't take much," said Wilson. "That's a shame. That's disgusting. Somebody should have to answer to this.

"How many more Aboriginal people are they going to find out there?"

The health region sent a statement on Thursday that said in the spirit of its reconciliation commitment, it would be reaching out to family and other concerned individuals to help "support their healing journey and answer their questions."