Blue Line

Family glad RCMP reviewing Regina police, but not confident in justice system

REGINA — The aunt of a woman who died after falling 10 storeys down a hotel laundry chute says she’s grateful that RCMP are reviewing the Regina police department’s investigation of the death.

August 1, 2017  By The Canadian Press

But Delores Stevenson is also skeptical.

“I don’t have a whole lot of confidence within the justice system and police investigating police, especially when there’s a lack of communication (between) the Regina police service and myself, and I’m sure this goes for other families,” Stevenson said at a news conference Monday.

Stevenson’s niece, Nadine Machiskinic, was found at the bottom of the laundry chute at Regina’s Delta Hotel in January 2015.

An autopsy report said Machiskinic died of blunt force trauma to the head, neck and trunk consistent with a fall. Blood tests also showed Machiskinic had alcohol and a mix of methadone and three other drugs in her system, as well as high levels of sleeping medication.

The coroner ruled her death accidental, saying there was no evidence of foul play and no evidence of suicidal intent.

But Machiskinic’s family has raised concerns that police did not take her death seriously. They’ve questioned how she fit through the opening of the laundry chute, which was only 53 centimetres wide, and why it took police 60 hours to launch an investigation.

Stevenson said it was presumed that Machiskinic walked into the laundry room and passed out or overdosed.

Because she was Indigenous, Stevenson said it was assumed her life didn’t matter, her possessions could be thrown away and “her case shouldn’t be treated as high importance by anybody from the emergency service, the coroner’s office, the Regina police, the Delta Hotel.

“I think everybody has a role to play in how this case was handled and the racism and stereotypes that were built upon this investigation,” she said.

A coroner’s inquest earlier this year heard that police made an error when they delayed sending toxicology samples for testing for several months.

The jury at the inquest ruled the cause of death as undetermined and made just one recommendation — that laundry chutes in hotels should always be kept locked and only ever be accessible to staff.

Brenda Dubois, an advocate for justice for First Nations who has done cultural training work with Regina police in the past, criticizes the way Machiskinic’s case was handled.

“Her death was wrongful,” Dubois said at the news conference.

“The investigation, I hate to say it, I think I’ve said it before, was a shoddy job, and we expect a better service.”

Regina police Chief Evan Bray said after the inquest in March that mistakes were made in the investigation, but Bray said he’s confident in the police force’s findings.

Bray said from the start of the investigation, officers faced challenges because paramedics didn’t believe police needed to be involved.

The RCMP review will look at how police handled the investigation, but is “not a re-investigation of the case,” Regina police spokeswoman Elizabeth Popowich said in an email last week.

Stevenson said the RCMP promised to meet with her to discuss the review.

“It’s very hard to have faith when the relationship is broken and there’s no trust and no confidence within the justice system,” said Stevenson. “I think that it’s an opportunity for the justice system to build that relationship with Indigenous communities.”

Dubois also said she hopes the RCMP will look at systemic issues in the review.

“In doing the review, there will be a ripple effect … as to how the police treat another similar case like this,” she said.

– Jennifer Graham

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2017

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