Media statement by the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth on the jury's verdict at the inquest into the deaths of seven First Nations youth

TORONTO, June 28, 2016 /CNW/ - Seven young lives lost, and seven families struggling for answers. At the end of a ten-year journey since the deaths of Reggie Bushie, 15, Jethro Anderson, 15, Curran Strang, 18, Paul Panacheese, 17, Robyn Harper, 18, Kyle Morriseau, 17, and Jordan Wabasse, 15 – all of whom came to Thunder Bay to attend high school from northern Ontario communities – an inquest jury delivered its verdict and 145 recommendations today, which must start the process of healing that is needed to address the devastating loss of seven young Aboriginal lives.

The five-person jury delivered the verdict of "accidental" in the cases of Curran Strang, Robyn Harper and Reggie Bushie, and "undetermined" in the cases of Jethro Anderson, Paul Panacheese, Kyle Morrisseau and Jordan Wabasse. In addition, the jury rendered 145 recommendations that highlighted system failures and called on federal, provincial, municipal and First Nations leadership to immediately implement change as soon as September – when the new school year begins. The jury called on the city of Thunder Bay and the Thunder Bay Police Service to tackle the issues of racism and the need for better training and cultural knowledge at all levels of municipal governance and policing. We also heard that on-the-ground supports and resources are needed for students, which include housing, mental health supports, addiction and community programs, and resources that are critically needed to address the culture shock and isolation young people feel when they leave their communities to gain an education.

But within all these calls for change, there was the murmur of hope; the possibility that people feel we are in the perfect storm; that we have a government that is listening. As we remember the loss of seven lives and the pain that the families of these children carry as they leave the courthouse, we all hope that the families, as with this country, can begin the journey of healing. The safety and lives of students lie in the balance if we maintain the status quo.

The scope and span of the 145 recommendations has the potential to create lasting change on the ground immediately for First Nation students, and long-term fundamental change addressing the inequity that First Nations children in Canada face. The recommendations represent an enormous task, yet an incredible opportunity for our province and country.

As the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, my Office will continue to work to ensure that the voices of the young people, through the jury, are heard and honoured. With their recommendations, the jury has taken us to a turning point where First Nations young people should no longer feel scared, judged, discriminated against, isolated and unsupported when leaving their communities for a high school education.

With September just around the corner, First Nations children and youth deserve to start the new school year knowing we have listened to them, that we are doing more to prove that their lives matter and they deserve what every child deserves – an education that will allow them to dream towards their future.

Irwin Elman
Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
The Office of the Provincial Advocate reports directly to the Legislature and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The advocates receive and respond to concerns from children, youth and families who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools).

The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement. For more information, visit: www.provincialadvocate.on.ca. For updates, read the Advocate's Blog and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth



For further information: Media Contact: Akihiko Tse, Communications, Media Relations Coordinator, (416)-325-5994, akihiko.tse@provincialadvocate.on.ca, Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

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