Blue Line

RCMP need training to challenge assumptions about Inuit intoxication: inquest

BAKER LAKE, Nunavut — The sister of a Nunavut man who died of a stroke after RCMP put him in a jail cell thinking he was drunk wants police to learn from their mistake.

August 15, 2017  By The Canadian Press

“They mishandled him, just thought of him as a drunk and we didn’t know him to drink,” Mercy Kayuryuk said Wednesday about her brother Paul. “I hope they do better.”

A Nunavut coroner’s inquest report recommends training for Mounties and civilian jail guards to challenge assumptions about intoxication and alcohol use in Inuit communities.

The report into the October 2012 death of Paul Kayuryuk says police assumed he was drunk when he was found at a landfill in Baker Lake.

RCMP placed him in a cell until he could be released on his own. But three different guards became increasingly concerned. The following day Kayuryuk was sent for a medical exam after another officer checked with his family.


A physician and nurses at the Baker Lake Health Centre quickly determined that he was suffering a serious stroke.

Relatives told nursing staff that he also had diabetes and he was sent by air ambulance to a Winnipeg hospital for treatment.

Kayuryuk died from complications from the stroke two weeks later on Oct. 29. Mercy Kayuryuk believes her brother was 57.

“The Royal Canadian Mounted Police V Division will, within the next year, use the circumstances of this inquest in training to ensure officers and civilian guards are encouraged to challenge assumptions about alcohol use and intoxication in Inuit communities,” reads one of the reports 17 recommendations.

“This includes training to listen carefully and inquire further into information offered by community and family members about persons suspected of intoxication.”

The report says this could include cultural sensitivity training.

RCMP were not immediately available for comment.

The findings of the Nunavut corner’s inquest follow recommendations from a review done in the Northwest Territories earlier this year into the death last August of Hugh Papik, 67, in Aklavik, N.W.T.

Papik had suffered a stroke but staff at his care home called his family and told them to pick him up because he was drunk.

The elder had a history of heart problems but not of drinking. Local health officials didn’t do a medical check.

His family persuaded medical staff to fly him to hospital in Yellowknife. He was later declared brain dead and was taken off life support.

The N.W.T. government said it has accepted recommendations in Papik’s death, including conducting cultural training for non-Indigenous staff and recruiting Indigenous health-care workers and first responders.

Last March, Health Minister Glen Abernethy said the N.W.T. government wants to break down such “systemic racism.”

Mercy Kayuryuk said police must do more to connect with people in Baker Lake and not make assumptions. She suggested the Mounties who were involved with her brother five years ago could have been prejudice.

Since then, she said police in Baker Lake seem to be reaching out more to learn their names and about their culture.

“I know the cops are doing the best,” she said. “We look up to the people who come here.”

– John Cotter in Edmonton

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc. 2017

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