Aklavik woman died from seizure while in police custody, family believes

Beverly Elanik was the mother of two daughters and three sons and had three grandchildren.

(Beverly Elanik was the mother of two daughters and three sons and had three grandchildren. Photo courtesy of the family.)

Iman Kassam
APTN National News
The family of Beverly Elanik, 51, believes she died after suffering a seizure while in the custody of the RCMP in Inuvik, N.W.T.

Elanik died Jan. 10 while being released from jail in Inuvik. She had been arrested the night before for public intoxication.

Inuvik RMCP said in a statement that Elanik went “unexpectedly” into “medical distress” as she was about to be released. The statement said officers administered first-aid on the scene and then took her the local hospital where she died.

Her brother Frank Elanik believes she died of a seizure. He said his sister suffered seizures as a child, but couldn’t elaborate on her medical condition.

“I was young too” he said. “I wasn’t entitled to any medical information.”

Beverly Elanik was adopted into the Elanik family when she was young, and raised in the small Inuvialuit and Gwich’in community of Aklavik. She traveled between her home community and Tsiigehtchic, and often went to Inuvik for medical attention.

She was the mother of two daughters and three sons and had three grandchildren.

Beverly’s biological mother, Eileen Edwards told APTN that Beverly was in Inuvik for medical reasons when she was picked up by the RCMP.  Edwards said Beverly recently started having seizures that were linked to her alcohol addiction.

“The only time she was ever put in prison was due to being drunk, and it was for safety for herself” said Edwards.

Edwards says she is sure there was no foul play by the Inuvik RCMP. “They were looking after her because I told them to.” She said this isn’t the first time the local police took her in for public intoxication. “They were concerned about her too, they know her condition. The RCMP here are very caring.”

Elanik and her nephew Stan Gordon grew up together in Aklavik. He says the family is not sure what happened to her while in police custody, but he too suspects she had a seizure.

“May be she forgot to take her pills…maybe she had a seizure.  Like going through detox when you drink for so long… that’s what I figured happened” he said. “She was a good woman….”

He doesn’t know what encouraged Elanik turn to alcohol, but he says there were times when she was living on the streets and in shelters.

Her siblings say she was an honest and good woman

“If you wanted a clown in your house, you got one,” said Frank Elanik, the brother. “She’d always turn things around. She would change the atmosphere to humorous, easy going.”

Her siblings says they never considered her to be adopted – she was a sister and a best friend.

“She was raised just like we were – traditionally,” said her brother. “She can do anything a traditional person can do. She can cut up whale or tan hides or any and every trait she has. A northern type.”

An investigation into Beverly Elanik’s death is underway.  The case has now been turned over to the Medicine Hat Police Service who are conducting an independent, external review of the circumstances related to her death.

It will take several months for the report to be completed.

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