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Grieving Inuit families blame racism of health-care workers for deaths of loved ones

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Kuujjuarapik’s community centre echoes with the sounds of Mary Pirti Kumarluk’s sobs.

Her daughter, Siasi ​Kumarluk, along with a support worker from the Viens Commission and Inuit interpreters, line up to hug her, one by one.

It’s been 16 months since Mary’s 34-year-old son Levi died after being struck by an all-terrain vehicle late the night of July 31, 2017 in Inukjuak, on the east coast of Hudson Bay.

« It breaks my heart, seeing a picture of my son, because I miss him. I wish I’d been holding him at the clinic, » said Mary Kumarluk in an interview with CBC News.

Mother and daughter testified Tuesday before Commissioner Jacques Viens at the inquiry into how Quebec’s public service treats Indigenous people.

The commission is in Kuujjuarapik this week, 350 kilometres south of Inukjuak on the Great Whale River — its first visit to Quebec’s Inuit territory of Nunavik since the inquiry began nearly two years ago.

Would Levi still be alive if he’d been qallunaaq?

Siasi Kumarluk says her brother would still be alive today if he’d been qallunaaq, the Inuktitut word for someone who is a non-Inuk, particularly someone of European descent.

She told the commission that health-care workers at the nursing station did not take Levi’s injuries seriously enough.

Instead, she said, they told him he was « a strong hunter » and didn’t need emergency transport to the nearest health centre where radiology equipment was available.

After he was examined by a doctor in Inukjuak, staff asked his elderly mother to take him by all-terrain vehicle to the airport for a commercial flight to the nearest medical centre equipped with radiology machines in Puvirnituq, 180 kilometres further north.

Nursing staff told Mary Kumarluk there was no room for her on the flight, so Levi travelled on alone.

His sister testified that her brother had been complaining of chest pain after the accident. He went into cardiac arrest in the waiting room of the clinic in Puvirnituq while waiting for an X-ray.

Levi Kumarluk was declared dead a short time later.

Unanswered questions in coroner’s report

The coroner’s report, obtained by CBC, shows he’d been diagnosed in Inukjuak with chest pain, abrasions, a lacerated knee, a hematoma at the back of his head and a suspected fractured heel.

Coroner Steeve Poisson concluded Levi Kumarluk died of a punctured lung just after 4 p.m., Aug. 1, nearly 18 hours after the accident.

« If he took that medevac that night, he would have made it for sure, » said his sister.

The coroner’s report doesn’t make any mention of whether emergency transport was available or why the 34-year-old man had had to travel alone on a commercial flight, nor why he had still not obtained a chest X-ray 17 hours after the accident, despite complaining of severe chest pain.

The Viens commission is holding hearings in Kuujjuarapik this week — the first time the inquiry into Quebec’s treatment of Indigenous people has held hearings in Nunavik. (Catou MacKinnon/CBC)

‘You just want to go to Montreal’

The Kumarluk family’s experience is not an isolated case.

A support worker for the Viens Commission read into the record the statement of an Inuk woman from Salluit, who said her mother died because nursing staff failed to send her out of the community for tests.

Elizabeth Williams’ mother Kitty was diagnosed with colon cancer more than a year after she started complaining of pain.

In the statement, Williams said when she would bring her mother to the nursing station because the 70-year-old woman was so racked with pain, health-care workers told her, « You just want to go to Montreal. » 

Ida Nulaiyuk testified that was forced to choose between having an abortion or having her leg amputated, because a wound wasn’t treated properly.

Nulaiyuk fell last September and ended up in hospital in Montreal after the injury became infected.

Doctors told her the drugs they had to treat her with at that point would be too strong for her unborn child to survive, and her only other option was to have an abortion.

She acknowledged she had been drinking and alcohol may have also interfered with her antibiotics, but she said that nursing staff ignored her symptoms.

A nurse « saw me in pain, and she asked me, ‘Why are you here?' »

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Anglais

‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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