The mother of Kyle Morrisseau says she was told by an Elder when her son died nine years ago that his case would eventually be reopened.
“He was just talking to me, just talking to me and then he says, ‘in the future from now on then in the future it’s not going to be closed even though if they say the case is closed. Whatever is going to go on after, it’s going to reopen again and you’re going to know what happened to your son.’ That’s what he told me,” Lorene Kakegumick told APTN News.
On Wednesday, Gerry McNeilly, head of the Office of the Independent Police Review Director release his long awaited report Broken Trust.
It slammed the Thunder Bay police for failing to properly investigate cases involving Indigenous people, and recommended that police reopen nine of them.
APTN News believes four of these cases are from a student inquest that examined the deaths of seven First Nations youth took place in the city – including the death of Kyle Morrisseau.
The 17-year old attended Dennis Franklin Cromarty High School and was found in the McIntyre River on Nov. 10, 2009 after being missing for two weeks.
Lorene accepted how police investigated her son’s case. They were invited to the Keeywaywin First Nation, where he was from for his memorial in 2017.
She was shocked when she heard about the report and immediately thought of what the Elder told her all those years ago.
“’The Creator is going to watch over you and every time you go outside wherever you are, wherever you go you will see eagle flying around over you up in the air.’”
“And that’s what I seen all summer. When I go somewhere or just drive to the river I always see an eagle, it kind of freaked me out.”
The provincially run student inquest provided few answers for any of the families involved.
And in response to the OIRPD report, the Thunder Bay police point to the inquest findings that found nothing wrong with its investigation of the Morrisseau case.
“There were no findings or recommendations directed at the police service with respect to the investigative process, nor was there any evidence found that would lead to the conclusion that further investigation was required,” the police wrote to the OIRPD.
“In fact, what should come as a result of the inquest findings and recommendations, is that Thunder Bay Police Service conducted thorough investigations into the deaths examined at the inquest.”
While McNeilly said the Thunder Bay police have done a good job of implementing some of the inquest’s 174 recommendations, their investigative work needs to improve.
“I…disagree with TBPS’s conclusion that the coroner’s inquest supports the view that TBPS’s investigations into Indigenous sudden deaths were thorough and beyond serious criticism,” McNeilly responded.
“The inquest did not engage in the detailed review of those investigations that we undertook. My review revealed serious deficiencies in four such investigations.”
In Morrisseau’s case, McNeilly wrote that foul play should not have been ruled out – and that police failed in many steps of its investigation including not getting evidence properly tested.
McNeilly’s recommendation is to reopen the Morrisseau case – but with a team that includes investigators from other police forces, the coroner’s office and a forensic pathologist.