News / Winnipeg

'We’re all human': Winnipeg inmate advocates call for inquest into five deaths

In an effort to keep the conversation going—and the victims’ names top of mind—these inmate advocacy groups are organizing a panel discussion.

(From left to right): Hollie Hall, Robert McAdam, Errol Greene and Russell Spence are all inmates who died while in custody at the Winnipeg Remand Centre this year.

(From left to right): Hollie Hall, Robert McAdam, Errol Greene and Russell Spence are all inmates who died while in custody at the Winnipeg Remand Centre this year.

Hollie Hall, Errol Greene, Robert McAdam, Russell Spence and an unnamed man.

All have died while in provincial custody at the Winnipeg Remand Centre within the last nine months.

Their families await answers from internal reviews about why their loved ones died, though some prisoner advocates have called for an overarching inquest to determine whether systemic problems may have contributed to the deaths.

In an effort to keep the conversation going—and the victims’ names top of mind—prisoner advocacy group Bar None and Prison Visiting Rideshare Manitoba are organizing a panel discussion Wednesday evening at the Circle of Life Thunderbird House between 7 to 9 p.m.

Cecil James, a band councillor from Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation, will be among the five panelists to speak.

James lost his 35-year-old sister, Kinew James, after she died of heart failure due to complications from diabetes while in custody at the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon on Jan. 20, 2013.

“My sister, she was a mother, she was an auntie. Some of the people here like Errol Greene, he was a husband, he was a father, he was a son, a brother. We’re all human and at the end of the day, we have to try and take care of each other,” he said.

“Especially when it’s somebody’s job. They shouldn’t be trying to shy away from the responsibilities,” James said of the corrections system.

Besides his sister’s story, James will also talk about how deaths in custody are dealt with differently by jurisdiction and the systemic failures of the prison system. He pointed to the lack of action after the Aboriginal Justice Inquiry's findings were released in 1999 as a glaring mistake.

“Very little has changed. Aboriginal people are still overly represented in corrections and I don’t know, it’s hard to say (why). I know the families will want their own answers (from internal reviews), but this continues to be a systematic problem,” he said.

According to Statistics Canada’s most recent data, Aboriginal adults represent about 25 per cent of admissions into provincial corrections’ facilities in Canada, while constituting about three per cent of the adult population.

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