NAN hopeful standing will be granted at Bushie inquest



    THUNDER BAY, ON, Jan. 14 /CNW/ - Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand
Chief Alvin Fiddler is hopeful that NAN and legal counsel for the family of
Reggie Bushie will be granted standing in the coroner's inquest into the death
of Reggie Bushie following pre-inquest proceedings in Thunder Bay today.
    "NAN made submissions to Dr. David Eden, presiding coroner, as to why NAN
has a substantial and direct interest in the proceedings," said Nishnawbe Aski
Nation (NAN) Deputy Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler. "Only by determining the
circumstances surrounding the death of Reggie Bushie can we fully understand
how this tragedy occurred and what can be done to prevent deaths under similar
circumstances."
    Northern Nishnawbe Education Council, the Office of the Provincial
Advocate for Children and Youth and Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC)
also sought standing for the inquest.
    "We welcome INAC's presence at this inquest as we need to look at
broader, systemic issues affecting our students including education funding
and policies," said Fiddler. "INAC's participation is a crucial piece to this
process."
    Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto (ALST), legal counsel for the Bushie
family, and NAN also filed motions questioning the validity of the selection
process of the five-member jury for the inquest. These issues are to be
determined at a later date.
    "The jury roll issue must be dealt with," said Fiddler. "In order for the
community and the family to have confidence in the process there has to be
transparency in the jury selection."
    Reggie Bushie, 15, died last fall while attending school at Dennis
Franklin Cromarty High School in Thunder Bay. The inquest into his death by
the Office of the Chief Coroner was requested in February 2008 by NAN and
Bushie's parents, Berenson and Rhoda King of Poplar Hill First Nation.
    A total of five youth from NAN territory attending Dennis Franklin
Cromarty High School have died in Thunder Bay since 2000.

    Nishnawbe Aski Nation is a political territorial organization
representing 49 First Nation communities within James Bay Treaty 9 and Treaty
5 territory - an area covering two-thirds of the province of Ontario.

    
    BACKGROUNDER

    REGGIE BUSHIE INQUEST

    -   The body of Reggie Bushie was recovered from the McIntyre River in
        Thunder Bay on November 1, 2007. Bushie was last seen alive along the
        riverside on October 26, 2007.

    -   The coroner's inquest into the death of Reggie Bushie is scheduled to
        begin Monday January 19, 2009 with Dr. David Eden presiding. The
        inquest is expected to examine the circumstances surrounding Bushie's
        death as well as issues relating to how First Nation students are
        impacted when attending schools away from their communities.

    -   Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN), Berenson and Rhoda King, Northern
        Nishnawbe Education Council, and the Office of the Provincial
        Advocate for Children and Youth have filed motions for standing
        during the inquest. Should they be granted standing, the legal
        council representing each party will be allowed to cross examine
        witnesses testifying at the inquest.

    -   In September 2008, NAN and ALST requested that the Attorney General
        conduct a formal inquiry into the jury roll system across the
        Province of Ontario.

    -   Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto (ALST), legal council for
        Berenson and Rhoda King, and NAN are questioning the validity of the
        selection process of the five-member jury for the Reggie Bushie
        inquest due to findings in 2008 that the jury roll in the Judicial
        District of Kenora has systematically excluded First Nation people
        from jury participation, even though the law requires that they be
        included.
    




For further information:

For further information: Michael Heintzman, Media Relations Officer -
Nishnawbe Aski Nation, (807) 625-4906 or (807) 621-2790 mobile

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NISHNAWBE ASKI NATION

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