Rudy Kishayinew’s death should open discussion on First Nations homelessness in Saskatoon – but will it?

Larissa Burnouf
APTN National
Friends of a First Nation’s woman who was found frozen to death on the streets of Saskatoon on New Year’s day says the city needs to take her death seriously.

Surveillance video shows Rudy Kishayinew, 21, walking down an alley in Saskatoon. She was found there frozen to death.

Lynn Thompson said Kishayinew and another friend reportedly walked into the St Pauls hospital to use the phone and warm up at around 3 a.m. They were asked to leave because she was high on drugs.

That evening the temperature was -23 and -35 with the wind chill. Her body was found 6 hours later behind a building across the street.

Police say her death was accidental but Thompson believes otherwise as she was found with no shoes or jacket on.

“At this point, we don’t know exactly what happened,” said Thompson. “At the time she did have her jacket and shoes. I know her family is quite concerned as to why she didn’t have her jacket and shoes on, but I truly believe someone did something to her prior to her being found…they probably rolled her, they probably took her shoes and her jacket.”

The hospital’s CEO and President Jean Morrison said they have no records of anyone being forced to leave the building that night. The hospital has since provided surveillance footage to Saskatoon police and the coroner’s office.

Morrison said through a statement that people often sleep in the waiting room or use it to warm up and if they’re asked to leave they’re offered support.

Thompson said Kishayinew did, along with many addicts in Saskatoon struggle with poverty and a lack of housing in the city.

She said she hopes Kishayinew’s death will shed light on the problem and force the city and local organizations to come up with a solution.

“I’m really hoping this will cause other organization’s and our city council and mayor to really, truly look at opening a center that’s open in the evening to cater to people that are high or drunk or just need a warm place to stay, or a cup of coffee or just someone to speak to,” said Thompson.

She also said that current shelters from homeless people in Saskatoon are more geared towards helping those with mental health issues and not substance abuse issues.