(Undated family photo of Kinew James. APTN/Flile)
APTN National News
A women inmate advocacy group is going to Saskatchewan court in hopes of overturning a provincial coroner’s decision rejection their participating in an upcoming inquest into the in-custody death of an Indigenous woman.
Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, said her organization has filed for a judicial review of Saskatchewan coroner’s Timothy Hawryluk’s decision to deny the group standing during the inquest into the death Kinew James.
Pate said the organization will be asking the Saskatchewan court to either grant Elizabeth Fry standing or send the issue to another coroner for review.
“I was shocked. I can’t imagine not seeing us having an interest and being able to provide some important input and perspective in the inquest into Kinew’s death unless (Hawryluk) has no experience in this area,” said Pate. “We would never have imagined we would not be granted standing. There was no indication. All along we have been corresponding with the coroner’s office to have standing and indicating we desire to have standing since Kinew died.”
Saskatchewan’s Office of the Chief Coroner did not return an APTN National News call requesting comment.
James died at the age of 35 on Jan. 20, 2013 in Saskatoon’s Regional Psychiatric Centre. James, originally from Winnipeg, was diabetic and died from a heart-attack. She was on the tail-end of a 15 year-sentence.
James was found unresponsive in her cell and declared dead-on-arrival at the hospital. It has since emerged that other prisoners held at the psychiatric centre repeatedly pressed emergency call buttons to alert staff James needed immediate medical assistance, according to a document on the case posted on Elizabeth Fry’s website.
The Elizabeth Fry Society provided support for James throughout her time within the prison system and its officials met with her two weeks before her death, said Pate.
James suffered from a mental illness and often came into conflict with guards and was convicted of assaulting correctional staff.
Donald Worme, the lawyer representing James’ family, said they support Elizabeth Fry’s request for standing.
“I think it’s unfortunate. I think it is really short-sighted. Obviously Elizabeth Frye is a group that has a very focused mandate and they are good at what they do. They can bring a lot of their experience to this and help the system help itself,” he said. “It seems to me the system is more concerned about maintaining the status quo.”
While the inquest is scheduled to begin the first week of January, Worme said he will be seeking to push back the start date to February or March to better prepare for the hearings.