Halifax rally calls for public inquiry into the deaths of 2 Mi’kmaw people in custody

About 80 people marched in Halifax demanding a “Mi’kmaw led” inquiry into the deaths of two people from the Eskasoni First Nation who died in the local jail.

“I hope somebody hears and comes to the table and they talk about what needs to be done,” said Kathy Denny, mother of Sarah Denny who died on March 26.

Denny, 36 and a mother of two, died of pneumonia while serving a six-month sentence for breaching her probation.

“I hope the rest of the province does come together and give us support and gives us an inquiry as to why this is happening in these facilities in Nova Scotia,” said Kathy.

The other person from the Eskasoni First Nation was Peter Paul, 27. He died in hospital on Jan. 28, 2023, after he was found unresponsive in a Cape Breton jail.

They’re not alone. A number of people who attended the rally have had loved ones who have died while in custody.

“The experience of losing a child in custody or at the hands of law enforcement is real and it’s a tough road to go down,” said Martha Martin whose daughter Chantel Moore was shot and killed by a New Brunswick police officer in June 2020.

Six months later, her son Mike Martin was 23 years old when he died by suicide while in custody in Surrey, B.C.

“The lack of empathy that we’re feeling from the police force from the correctional facilities there’s something that needs to be changed,” she said.

Skylar Sappier, 28, from Nequtkuk First Nation and a father of two when he died of COVID-19 just nine days before he was scheduled to be released from a Saint John jail.

An inquest into his death made 40 recommendations.

“I’m going to be his voice even if I have to stand up here and cry,” said his sister Raeann Tole at the rally.

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‘Why did my daughter die?’ Mi’kmaw mother demands inquiry into Nova Scotia jail 

When a person dies in custody in Nova Scotia the investigation is handled internally and the findings are kept confidential.

Gilbert Paul, the brother of Peter Paul, said a public inquiry can prevent other deaths.

“It’s very hard to get information right now, but we retained a lawyer and we wrote to the justice minister the attorney general the premier, Tim Houston, we also wrote to him as well we are calling for a Mi’kmaw-led fatality inquiry,” he said.

The Denny family also has legal representation and requested a meeting with Nova Scotia’s justice minister to discuss an inquiry.

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