Thunder Bay

Inquest into First Nations students deaths may be delayed

The same concerns about inadequate First Nations representation on the 2014 jury roll that stayed a murder trial last month could also further delay a long-awaited coroner's inquest.

Regional supervising coroner cites jury roll concerns in court ruling last month

Students in Thunder Bay gather by the river each fall to remember their peers who drowned while attending high school in the city. (Jody Porter/CBC)

A coroner's inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations students in Thunder Bay  could be further delayed after a Superior Court judge's ruling that the current jury roll is flawed.

The regional supervising coroner for northwestern Ontario, Michael Wilson, said no firm date had been set for the inquest, but he had planned to start this year. 

Wilson said that`s now doubtful after Superior Court Justice, John McCartney, stayed the murder trial of Shaldon Wabason for one year in April, saying the 2014 jury roll did not adequately represent First Nations people living on reserve.

In his ruling, McCartney had said the Court Services Division had not done enough to address the long-standing concern about fair representation.  The issue was highlighted more than a year ago in a scathing report by retired Supreme Court of Canada Justice Frank Iacobucci, saying the justice system was failing Aboriginal people. 

Wilson said although other aspects of the upcoming inquest into the deaths of the First Nations students still need to be worked out, including its scope, the jury roll issue must be addressed first. 


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