June 23rd, 2020

Ford walks out as Mamakwa calls for action to stop Indigenous deaths at Thunder Bay jail

QUEEN’S PARK - Doug Ford walked out during question period Tuesday as Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa called on him to take action to stop any further deaths of young Indigenous people at the Thunder Bay District Jail, after Mamakwa’s nephew recently died at the facility.

“The correctional system across Ontario is a factory that produces broken Indigenous people and dehumanizes our young men and women,” said Mamakwa, the NDP Official Opposition’s critic for Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation. “This includes my nephew Kevin. He died in June while he was in custody at the Thunder Bay District Jail.”

Mamakwa said nine people have died at the jail since 2002. Seven were Indigenous men.

“Like Kevin these young people are our sons, fathers, and nephews,” said Mamakwa. “How many more Indigenous people need to die at the Thunder Bay jail before the government takes action to solve this crisis?”

Ford walked out as Mamakwa stood to ask him the second part of his question: “What does the premier plan to do so that no more families will see their child’s body flown away from home for another autopsy?”

Mamakwa and his family had a viewing of Kevin’s body before it was flown to Toronto for the required coroner’s investigation.

The Ontario Human Rights Commissioner, Coroner’s Inquests, the Grand Chief of Nishnawbe Aski Nation, and Mamakwa’s brother have all called for the jail to close. Mamakwa said that young Indigenous people do not belong in jails. They need support and they need their basic needs to be met.

“They’ve suffered years and even generations of trauma and extreme poverty,” said Mamakwa. “They need access to proper education, access to their cultural teachings, access to clean running water, houses fit to live in, health care and mental health supports when they need it.

“The system must change. It needs to address the underlying issues of colonialism that ripped children away from our families, and have brought us to where we are today.”