6 flu deaths among kids reported in Canada

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Flu activity remains high in Canada, according to a new report released on Friday that confirms children and teens were hit hard.

A total of  17,743 laboratory-confirmed flu cases have been reported, the Public Health Agency of Canada said in its weekly FluWatch report.

Six pediatric deaths occurred so far this season, all children under the age of 10. There were also 95 pediatric admissions to ICU for flu.

Influenza A is the most common form of the virus circulating in Canada, and the majority of these viruses are H1N1. 

The Canadian report covers the period Dec. 30 to Jan. 5.

Elsewhere on Friday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated 69,000 to 84,000 Americans were hospitalized due to the flu in the last three months.

The U.S. saw one of the worst flu outbreaks in nearly a  decade during the 2017-2018 season, with more than 900,000 cases of hospitalizations and over 80,000 deaths, the CDC estimates .

The H1N1 virus is also the predominant strain in the U.S. this year. 

Flu infections bring fever, cough, general malaise and achy muscles and joints.

Health officials in both countries say  it’s not too late to get a flu vaccine to reduce the risk of contracting the virus.

They also recommend that people stay at home and not go to work or school if ill. Everyone is encouraged to wash their hands often, and to cough and sneeze into your elbow.

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Toronto saw at least 146 suspected opioid deaths in 2018, according to paramedics’ data

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At least 146 people died of suspected opioid overdoses in Toronto in 2018, according to data from city paramedics.

The tally, which includes all suspected overdose deaths that happen before paramedics arrive or while they are administering care, comes from the first calendar year’s worth of data reported by the city’s public health department.

A man checks out an overdose-reversing naloxone kit given out at a downtown safe-injection site in an Aug. 14, 2017 file photo.
A man checks out an overdose-reversing naloxone kit given out at a downtown safe-injection site in an Aug. 14, 2017 file photo.  (Richard Lautens / Toronto Star)

The paramedics’ reports show a decrease in overdose deaths in the second half of the year compared to the same period in 2017, but it is too early to determine if that’s part of a larger trend, said Dr. Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health.

Toronto Public Health began monitoring paramedic reports of suspected opioid overdoses in August 2017 and publishes the data through its Overdose Information System.

“While considerable work has been done, the situation remains urgent,” de Villa said. “Too many people in our community are dying from preventable deaths attributed to drugs in the illegal market which are contaminated with fentanyl and other potent substances.”

Paramedics’ numbers do not include any deaths that happen after a patient is taken to hospital, nor any paramedics determine to be accidental that the coroner later rules an overdose.

Opioid deaths have increased sharply in Toronto in recent years. An average of 94 people died of opioid overdoses in the city each year between 2005 and 2013 — but that number has risen each year since, to a high of 308 in 2017, according to coroner’s data published by Public Health Ontario.

Toronto saw 111 opioid overdose deaths in the first six months of 2018 according to preliminary coroner’s data.

According to Health Canada, 2017 also saw a nationwide high in apparent opioid deaths, at nearly 4,000.

De Villa said the city’s public health department is throwing everything in its tool kit at the overdose crisis, pointing especially to harm-reduction services and supervised injection sites that opened this year.

The city late last year released a study of examining its first full year of paramedics’ data on suspected opioid overdoses, from August 2017 to August 2018. During that span, paramedics responded to 3,203 suspected opioid overdoses, of which 161 were fatal.

The study — the first of its kind — mapped both the number of calls and the fatality rates in Toronto neighbourhoods, showing overdoses are concentrated downtown, where officials say the city is also best-equipped to prevent deaths.

De Villa called the opioid overdose crisis “the defining health issue of our time” and said it must be tackled with multiple mechanisms including supervised consumption.

“Criminalizing those who use drugs adds to stigma,” she said. “We need to recognize that the current approach to the opioid overdose crisis is not achieving optimal community health, and it is not reducing the health harms associated with drug use. Our residents deserve evidence-based public health interventions that help them to start life healthy and stay that way for as long as possible.”

Those sentiments were echoed by Dr. Philip Berger, who has been an advocate for those grappling with opioid addictions since the early 1990s.

“Safe drug using sites — they should be all over the place,” Berger said. “There is nowhere near enough.”

There should be a wider slate of treatment options being made more readily available, he said, adding: “Every user should have (an overdose-reversing) naloxone kit.”

Jason Miller is a breaking news reporter based in Toronto. Reach him on email: jasonmiller@thestar.ca

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Toronto appears to have hit a one-year high in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. Over 40 per cent of those deaths happened in Scarborough

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The morning of Sept. 26 began just like any other for Maria Dorsey and her partner, Jack Miehm. The pair had coffee and, before he left the house to catch a TTC bus, Jack asked what they would do for dinner that night.

“All that boring stuff, it seems like now, but it’s not boring,” Dorsey recalled.

Toronto appears to have hit a one-year high in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. Maria Dorsey lost her Jack Miehm in September.
Toronto appears to have hit a one-year high in pedestrian and cyclist fatalities. Maria Dorsey lost her Jack Miehm in September.  (MOE DOIRON / TORONTO STAR)

“I gave him a kiss goodbye and said I’ll see you later, and that was it.”

Moments after he left the house to go help a friend with drywall work, Miehm, a 61-year-old semi-retired contractor, was struck by a driver as he crossed at a stoplight at St. Clair Ave. E. and Jeanette St. in the Scarborough Junction neighbourhood. He was about two minutes from his front door.

The impact was so powerful Miehm was thrown 50 metres, police later told Dorsey, and the side mirror of the van was ripped off. The driver fled the scene; a suspect was arrested two days later.

Those who knew him say Miehm, who had two children and two grandchildren, was a quiet, friendly man. At the time of his death, he had been recovering from a stroke he had about six years ago with what Dorsey described as characteristic optimism.

“He said, ‘it could be worse.’ That was his favourite line,” she said. “They say the voice is the first thing people (forget) when you lose someone, but I can still hear his laugh.”

Miehm was one of 46 pedestrians or cyclists who have died in Toronto so far in 2018, a number that appears to mark a recent one-year high for the city.

According to statistics compiled by the Star using police and media reports, 41 pedestrians and five cyclists, who together are classified as “vulnerable road users,” have been killed on the streets so far this year.

The most recent death occurred Friday, when a woman in her 70s was found at the intersection of Finch Ave. East and Wayside Ave. in Scarborough.

The 46 deaths so far in 2018 exceeds the number of combined pedestrian and cyclist fatalities recorded in any year in a police database that goes back to 2007. The highest number in the database is 44, which the city reached in both 2013 and 2016.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Brimley and Heather Rds. (Jan. 2); Steeles Ave. E. and Eastvale Dr. (Jan. 7); Eglinton Ave. E. and Birchmount Rd. (Jan. 9); Warden Ave. and Bambaugh Circle. (Jan. 24)
Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Brimley and Heather Rds. (Jan. 2); Steeles Ave. E. and Eastvale Dr. (Jan. 7); Eglinton Ave. E. and Birchmount Rd. (Jan. 9); Warden Ave. and Bambaugh Circle. (Jan. 24)  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star; Moe Doiron / For Toronto Star)

The Star began keeping its own count of traffic deaths last year, in order to fill gaps in the police numbers, which don’t include fatalities that occur on private property or provincially owned 400 series highways.

The Star’s count for 2017 showed 41 pedestrians and four cyclists were killed that year, for a total of 45. The number of deaths in 2018 has now exceeded that total as well, with more than three weeks left in the year.

The numbers show two years after city council adopted the Vision Zero plan intended to eliminate traffic fatalities, the deaths of vulnerable road users haven’t slowed.

The city is spending $100 million over five years on the plan, which calls for reducing speed limits, deploying additional red light cameras, increasing signage, reconfiguring intersections, and adding traffic calming measures such as speed humps.

The victims in 2018 have ranged in age from 5 to 92 years old, although more than half were over the age of 55. At least four of the older victims were riding mobility scooters or motorized wheelchairs when they were killed.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Kennedy and William Kitchen Rds. (Feb.21); Cannongate Trail and Purcell Sq. (Feb. 27); Highway 401 and Warden Ave. (March 1); Greencedar Circuit and Daphne Rd. (March 2)
Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Kennedy and William Kitchen Rds. (Feb.21); Cannongate Trail and Purcell Sq. (Feb. 27); Highway 401 and Warden Ave. (March 1); Greencedar Circuit and Daphne Rd. (March 2)  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star; Moe Doiron / For Toronto Star)

Those who died this year include 5-year-old cancer survivor Camila Torcato, who was pinned by a vehicle outside her school in January; 21-year-old University of Toronto student Emma Leckey, who was run down by an alleged drunk driver downtown; 54-year-old Doug Crosbie, who was clipped by a truck driver while riding his bike on Dundas St. E.; and 50-year-old Isabel Soria, who was struck by an alleged hit-and-run driver while her husband was steps away.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for more than 46 per cent (or 19 of 41) of pedestrian deaths this year, despite the eastern borough containing just 23 per cent of the city’s population and about 26 per cent of its road kilometrage.

A majority of the deaths in Scarborough occurred on or near wide, busy roads such as Ellesmere Rd., Warden Ave. and Victoria Park Ave.

Dorsey said drivers routinely sped down the section of St. Clair Ave. where Miehm was killed.

“We would sit in the backyard in summer, and it’s like a freeway. They race down that street, and I would say to Jack, someone’s going to get hit,” she said.

Nancy Smith Lea, director of the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), said the city’s wide streets “really facilitate high speeds.”

“It’s absolutely tragic that people are continuing to be killed on the streets, but it’s unfortunately not surprising because we’re still designing our streets in a way that kills people, especially outside of the downtown core,” Smith Lea said.

She said the road design in Scarborough and the city’s other suburbs, which were planned and built decades ago, have left “a challenging legacy” that can’t be quickly or easily addressed.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Warden Ave. and Fairfax Crescent. (July 30); Claremore Ave. and Craiglee Dr. (Aug. 6); Highway 2A, east of the Highland Creek Overpass. (Aug. 9); St. Clair Ave. and Jeanette St. (Sept. 26)
Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Warden Ave. and Fairfax Crescent. (July 30); Claremore Ave. and Craiglee Dr. (Aug. 6); Highway 2A, east of the Highland Creek Overpass. (Aug. 9); St. Clair Ave. and Jeanette St. (Sept. 26)  (Moe Doiron/For Toronto Star)

As part of Vision Zero, the city has reduced speed limits on portions of Kingston Rd., Midland Ave., Finch Ave. and other major streets, and deployed about two dozen red-light cameras in Scarborough.

But the physical changes that Smith Lea and other experts say are crucial to slow traffic and making streets safer — such as adding bike lanes and reducing pedestrian crossing distance at intersections — would take longer to install throughout Scarborough.

“There’s not a really easy answer. It’s going to take some time,” she said. She argued a key first step is getting suburban political leaders onside with road safety initiatives.

Smith Lea complained that when a coalition of groups that included her organization sent councillors a survey about making commitments to road safety in the run-up to October’s municipal election, just one out of seven incumbents running for re-election in Scarborough filled it out.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Sheppard Ave. E. and Allanford Rd. (Sept. 26); Victoria Park Ave. and Esquire Rd. (Sept. 29); Ellesmere and Birchmount Rds. (Nov. 9); Ellesmere and Neilson Rds. (Nov. 12)
Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were four of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Clockwise from left: Sheppard Ave. E. and Allanford Rd. (Sept. 26); Victoria Park Ave. and Esquire Rd. (Sept. 29); Ellesmere and Birchmount Rds. (Nov. 9); Ellesmere and Neilson Rds. (Nov. 12)  (Rene Johnston / Toronto Star; Moe Doiron / For Toronto Star)

Councillor Gary Crawford, who represents Ward 20, Scarborough Southwest, didn’t fill out the survey. But he blamed a particularly chaotic election season, and said he has heard loud and clear from voters that road safety is a priority issue.

“Major roads, even residential roads out in the suburbs, Scarborough in particular, were designed for certain speeds,” Crawford said.

He singled out Kingston Rd. in particular as a trouble area because it’s “almost a major highway, but it is through residential areas.”

Crawford said in addition to lowering speeds on the street, he’d like the city to consider adding on-street parking in order to slow drivers.

The councillor, who served as Mayor John Tory’s budget chief during this council term, said he could support accelerating and adding more funding to Vision Zero if city staff recommended it.

“Every death is absolutely tragic. We need to continue doing what we’re doing with our Vision Zero. We need to continue the investments, and if need be through the advice of staff, further enhance these,” he said.

Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were two of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Left: Bellamy Rd. N. and Cedar Brae Blvd. (Nov. 25); Midland and Dorcot Aves. (Dec. 4).
Incidents in Scarborough have accounted for almost 40 per cent of pedestrian deaths this year. These were two of the Scarborough intersections where fatalities occurred, and the corresponding date of the incident. Left: Bellamy Rd. N. and Cedar Brae Blvd. (Nov. 25); Midland and Dorcot Aves. (Dec. 4).  (Andrew Francis Wallace / Toronto Star; Rene Johnston / Toronto Star)

Don Peat, a spokesperson for the mayor, said Tory “firmly believes the central message of Vision Zero that fatalities and serious injuries on our roads are preventable, and we must strive to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries to zero.”

Peat said the mayor has joined with a majority of council and supported expanding Vision Zero, and receives “regular updates” on the implementation of road safety measures “to ensure the work is being done as quickly as possible.”

Tory initially supported a version of the road safety plan put forward by city staff in 2016, which set a target of reducing traffic deaths and serious injury by 20 per cent over 10 years. Under heavy criticism from safety advocates, Tory supported changing the plan to set a goal of eliminating road deaths altogether.

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at bspurr@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr

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Man in his 60s dies as Toronto matches last year’s high for pedestrian and cyclist deaths

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Two years after city council approved a plan to end traffic deaths, Toronto appears to have matched a recent one-year high for pedestrian and cyclist fatalities.

The latest death occurred on Tuesday, when Toronto police Const. David Hopkinson said a man in his 60s died after being struck by a vehicle at Midland and Dorcot Aves., near Donwood Park Public School in Scarborough.

The latest death occurred on Tuesday, when Toronto police Const. David Hopkinson said a man in his 60s died after being struck by a vehicle at Midland and Dorcot Aves., near Donwood Park Public School in Scarborough.
The latest death occurred on Tuesday, when Toronto police Const. David Hopkinson said a man in his 60s died after being struck by a vehicle at Midland and Dorcot Aves., near Donwood Park Public School in Scarborough.  (Rick Madonik / Toronto Star)

According to statistics compiled by the Star using police and media reports, 45 pedestrians and cyclists have been killed so far this year.

With 27 days left in the year, the total ties the Star’s count for all of 2017. It also exceeds the number of pedestrian and cyclist deaths recorded in any single year in a police database that goes back to 2007.

The Star’s pedestrian and cyclist death counts differs from the one maintained by police. That’s in part because Toronto police figures don’t include deadly collisions that happen on private property, such as in the parking lots of apartment buildings or malls, or on provincial 400-series highways within Toronto.

The Star tracked these incidents since 2017, but does not have independent data for previous years.

It’s unclear if this year’s total surpasses previous years overall, as the Star does not have independent data on pedestrian and cyclist deaths before 2007.

Tuesday night’s victim was struck while crossing the street. Police responded to a call for personal injury collision around 7:30 p.m. and found the man on the ground without vital signs. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Police said the driver remained with the victim. There was no immediate word on whether charges would be laid.

The incident brings the total number of pedestrians killed so far this year to 40. Five cyclists have also died.

The police count does not include the death of a cyclist in Don Mills who hit a parked vehicle, or a man killed by an alleged hit-and-run driver in the parking garage of an apartment building.

In July 2016, city council approved a road safety plan dubbed Vision Zero, the stated goal of which is to eliminate serious injuries and deaths on the roads. Council has allocated more than $100 million to the five-year plan.

The Star omitted the death of a waste collector who died on the job when he was crushed by a garbage truck’s side loader. The police recorded that incident as a traffic death.

The man who died Tuesday night was one of three pedestrians killed in the GTA in less than six hours. A female pedestrian was pronounced dead at the scene after being struck by a vehicle in Mississauga on Tuesday evening, and another female pedestrian was fatally struck in Mississauga around 2 p.m.

Emerald Bensadoun is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @twerk_vonnegut

Ben Spurr is a Toronto-based reporter covering transportation. Reach him by email at bspurr@thestar.ca or follow him on Twitter: @BenSpurr

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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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Police-related deaths in Nunavut nine times higher than in Ontario

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IQALIUT—There have been 14 police-related deaths in Nunavut since the territory’s creation in 1999, all of them Inuit and all of whom died in RCMP custody or after an interaction with the Mounties.

The RCMP is the only police force here and runs jails in all 25 Nunavut communities. After a police-related death, RCMP usually hires an outside police force to investigate the incident.

The RCMP detachment in Iqaluit, Nunavut.
The RCMP detachment in Iqaluit, Nunavut.  (Thomas Rohner)

Between 1999 and 2016, the last year for which there was complete coroner data, the rate of police-related deaths in Nunavut was more than nine times higher than Ontario’s rate.

While there is no evidence the RCMP committed any wrongdoing in the 14 deaths, the alarming trend – with four of the deaths occurring since 2016 — is fuelling calls for greater and more independent police oversight and the creation of an agency such as Ontario’s Special Investigations Unit.

Four members of Nunavut’s Legislative Assembly (MLAs) are demanding the territory’s justice department take action.

“A civilian oversight body is definitely needed for policing in Nunavut,” Iqaluit MLA Adam Lightstone told the Star. “The ideal situation would be to have Nunavummiut sitting on that civilian oversight body.”

In Nunavut’s consensus-style government, MLAs are not considered part of an opposition party, though, if they are not in cabinet, they are free to criticize government.

Nunavut’s lack of such an oversight agency to review serious incidents is an “outlier,” says Paul McKenna, former deputy director of the Ontario Provincial Police Academy.

MLAs Cathy Towtongie, Joelie Kaernerk and Pat Angnakak are echoing Lightstone’s call.

“Who are the police accountable to? There’s no oversight,” said Towtongie. “I support the idea of an independent oversight body.”

In most Canadian jurisdictions, an independent civilian-led body investigates serious incidents or allegations of police misconduct. In Ontario, the SIU investigates interactions with police that result in serious injury, death or allegations of sexual assault.

In Nunavut, where the government contracts the RCMP to provide policing services, serious incidents are investigated by the RCMP themselves or by another police force hired by the RCMP. Deaths automatically trigger an outside police force to probe the incident. After the outside police agency investigates, it can lay a charge — though this has never happened in Nunavut — and then it reports back to the Mounties.

“The RCMP and the (Government of Nunavut) do not make those reports public. To this day, we still don’t know what the outcome of those reports are, just what the RCMP or department tell us,” Lightstone said. “This status quo is unacceptable. Something has to be done about it.”

Adam Lightstone, an elected member of Nunavut's Legislative Assembly, is calling for greater oversight of the RCMP.
Adam Lightstone, an elected member of Nunavut’s Legislative Assembly, is calling for greater oversight of the RCMP.  (Thomas Rohner / Toronto Star)

Those unsatisfied with an investigation can make complaints to the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission for the RCMP, an independent body created by federal Parliament. The commission will review that investigation and issue a report outlining whether they agree or disagree with the Mounties. The commission says its chair may also conduct its own “public interest” investigation but none have been completed in Nunavut.

One option for Nunavut would be to hire another jurisdiction’s civilian-led agency, Lightstone said. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, an agency similar to the SIU, is under contract to the Yukon government to investigate serious police incidents.

“I don’t think the (RCMP’s complaint) commission is adequate for Nunavut’s needs. I think we need our own independent oversight body so that every single occurrence can be reviewed.”

The Nunavut RCMP did not respond to two requests for comment.

In August, a Star investigation revealed the story of Bernard Naulalik, an Inuk man from Iqaluit who was beaten by RCMP officers in his holding cell on three separate occasions between 2014 and 2016 — all of which were captured on video. Naulalik’s was one of about 30 cases in legal aid’s files alleging injuries to clients sustained during police arrest or detention across the territory, the Star found.

“I shared the cellblock video footage published with (the Star’s) article with all of the members during one of our committee meetings…All of the MLAs were alarmed and shocked,” Lightstone said.

In this story, “police-related deaths” refer to deaths occurring in police custody, detention, or while or after interacting with police. The Star obtained data on police-related deaths from both the Ontario and Nunavut offices of the chief coroner.

Read more:

Video shows officers punching and kicking this Inuk man on three separate occasions. Advocates warn his case is part of a trend

Opinion | Health care in Inuktut would save lives in Nunavut

Of the 14 Inuit who died since 1999, five were shot by police, two died during standoffs with police and at least three died in custody, including one hanging death. Thirteen of the deaths have occurred in the last 10 years.

When adjusted for population, Nunavut’s rate is 17 times higher than Toronto’s between 1999-2016. Nunavut’s rate is six times higher than Thunder Bay.

In response to the MLAs’ demands, the Nunavut justice department said, “Like several jurisdictions in Canada, Nunavut utilizes policing agencies from outside the territory to investigate major incidents.”

Even civilian-led agencies rely on officers trained in policing, the department said, adding it is “confident of the impartiality and professionalism outside police forces bring to their investigations. … That said, the department is also reviewing the viability of other potential options … including civilian oversight.”

Concerns about investigations into Nunavut RCMP conduct have been raised in the past.

During a 2014 coroner’s inquest into the death of Solomon Uyarasuk, found dead in RCMP cells in Igloolik in 2012, the jury heard testimony from Ottawa Police investigators. Sgt. Dan Brennan testified that the investigation scene had not been sealed until six hours after the death, that the RCMP officers involved had been left alone at the investigation scene, and that the involved Mounties were not considered suspects.

Joelie Kaernerk, another elected member of the MLA, is also calling for greater police oversight in Nunavut.
Joelie Kaernerk, another elected member of the MLA, is also calling for greater police oversight in Nunavut.  (Thomas Rohner / Toronto Star)

Brennan testified that his investigation would have benefited from knowing expectations for his own role and responsibilities. He had never seen a Memorandum of Understanding between the RCMP and the Ottawa Police. The Ottawa Police report then went to the Mounties, Brennan said.

In Ontario, the SIU issues a public report after its investigations. While critics argue the SIU should make more information public, its reports offer far more information than the Nunavut RCMP or justice department.

The jury heard testimony that Uyarasuk was terrified he would die or get beaten up in police cells, screaming on the way to the detachment that it had happened before. The jury recommended the Mounties reopen the investigation to “fill in the missing information” but that has never been done.

The Ottawa Police investigation was not good enough, Joelie Kaernerk, MLA for the communities of Hall Beach and Igloolik, told the Star.

“Family members really wanted answers, but the Ottawa Police Service (investigation) didn’t provide a whole lot of answers to the family. To this day, I believe there’s still questions from the family,” Kaernerk said. The Ottawa Police report was not made public at the inquest.

“Something’s gotta be done, something needs to be done. We need more answers from the police,” said Eva Qirngnirq, 61, whose grandson Charles died after being shot by police in 2016 in the community of Gjoa Haven, about 2,000 kilometres due north of Winnipeg.

Eva said Charles had difficulty managing his anger, and she tried but couldn’t stop him from taking the rifle from the attic and heading to the airport, where he wanted to stop his girlfriend from leaving town.

Naytanie Atadjuat died after being shot by RCMP in the north Baffin community of Pond Inlet in 2002. He was in mental distress, had cut his girlfriend's neck and threatened an elementary school child before being shot, police reports said.
Naytanie Atadjuat died after being shot by RCMP in the north Baffin community of Pond Inlet in 2002. He was in mental distress, had cut his girlfriend’s neck and threatened an elementary school child before being shot, police reports said.  (Family Handout)

“I don’t know if it surprises me — 14 —but it’s very shocking. When you went through it before, and having to hear it again, another person was shot by RCMP, all of your body and heart is shaking,” said Louisa Atadjuat, 40, whose brother Naytanie Atadjuat was shot by police in the north Baffin community of Pond Inlet in 2002.

Naytanie had cut his girlfriend’s neck and threatened an elementary school child before being shot, police reports said.

Police reports said that both Charles and Naytanie were going through episodes of mental distress at the time of their shootings.

The move towards civilian-led oversight of police hinges on the notion that police investigating police is inconsistent with public confidence and accountability, according to McKenna, the former deputy director of the OPP academy.

“Under certain circumstances, virtually every police service has, or could, avail themselves of the investigative services of another police department for certain issues. This, however, does not extend to serious incidents … It would seem that the approach in Nunavut is an anomaly.”

A 2007 study conducted by McKenna and a colleague found blending civilian with police expertise to be a best investigative practice, instilling confidence and trust in policing services.

Trust and confidence is low within the territory’s government-funded legal aid agency, according to correspondence obtained by the Star under freedom of information legislation.

“Nunavummiut … are being abused by members of the RCMP, and…absolutely nothing is being done about it by the RCMP, the (Public Prosecution Service of Canada) or the (Government of Nunavut),” Jonathan Ellsworth, Chief Operating Officer of Nunavut’s legal aid wrote in an April email.

In the last three years, legal aid has filed 25 civil cases against the RCMP for clients alleging police brutality, the email said. Seventeen of those cases are ongoing.

“The real question that everyone should be asking is: on whose behalf do the (Government of Nunavut,) the Crowns (office,) and the RCMP act, and why are they allowing this violence against Inuit to continue?” Ellsworth wrote.

One of the biggest issues facing Inuit during police interactions is a language barrier, Kaernerk said. About 90 per cent of Nunavut Inuit speak Inuktitut.

“When English is their second language, it’s difficult for Inuit to make themselves understood to RCMP,” he said, adding he supports Lightstone’s call for civilian oversight.

MLA Pat Angnakak said she also supports Lightstone’s call for civilian oversight, to ensure “all cases are heard in a fair and transparent way.”

Such oversight and transparency is crucial, MLA Towtongie said, as “we’re dealing with marginalization within the system, where a minority is sent to control the majority, and a lot of Inuit are tense and stressed.”

Charles Qirngnirq died after being shot by RCMP in Gjoa Haven, about 2,000 kilometers north of Winnipeg. A relative said he had difficulty managing his anger and she could not stop him from taking the rifle from the attic and heading to the airport, where he wanted to stop his girlfriend from leaving town.
Charles Qirngnirq died after being shot by RCMP in Gjoa Haven, about 2,000 kilometers north of Winnipeg. A relative said he had difficulty managing his anger and she could not stop him from taking the rifle from the attic and heading to the airport, where he wanted to stop his girlfriend from leaving town.  (Family handout)

Neither Louisa Atadjuat nor her mother remember details of any investigation into Naytanie’s death in 2002, Louisa said.

This is the first time Louisa said she is speaking about Naytanie’s death since it happened. She remembers it was a beautiful sunny day in September, plenty of boats and narwhals in the bay. She remembers crying in a health centre room with her parents, her brother’s body lying on a bed.

“I always think about those two RCMPs…Both the victims and the RCMP need to have counselling, in the same room, and try to have closure to it. For me, it would be helpful.”

Eva Qirngnirq said she wonders why so many institutions and services failed Charles.

“Charles had such a difficult life. I talked to the mental health workers and social workers and they just turned to the RCMP instead of sitting down with us and asking what kind of life he had … The (RCMP) didn’t even talk to me,” after Charles died, she said.

Tobi Qirngnirq, Charles’ aunt, said she knew he had an anger problem and it scared her. That’s why she would check in with the local RCMP every week or two, to keep tabs on Charles. “That year (Charles died,) they switched over to new RCMP,” so it was new RCMP officers in town whom the family didn’t know and who didn’t know the family, she said.

After losing his father at a young age, Charles struggled with alcoholism and starting a young family. “I could see that he was frustrated, and he just wanted a place to call home.”

Neither Tobi nor Eva have heard anything about an investigation into the RCMP’s shooting of Charles. They remember how Charles loved to go out on the land, camping with family and helping others. “He did so much for me. That was so hard when he was gone,” Charles’ grandmother, Eva said.

Louisa Atadjuat recalls fond memories of her brother Naytanie, two years older, who taught her to ride a bike and went rabbit hunting with her. “He taught me a lot of stuff, like any brother would do, to teach his little sister.”

Data analysis by Andrew BaileyThomas Rohner is a freelance journalist based in Iqaluit, Nunavut. He can be reached at Thomas.rohner@gmail.com and on Twitter @thomas_rohner

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Police investigate suspicious deaths after three bodies found in Middlesex County south of London, Ont.

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The Ontario Provincial Police are investigating after three people were found dead on Sunday in Middlesex County south of London, Ont.

Middlesex County OPP responded to the area of Bodkin Rd. and Jones Dr., which is a 10-minute drive north of the Oneida Nation of the Thames, shortly before 10 a.m. Three bodies were found in the area.

The deaths are being treated as suspicious, police said.

Bodkin Rd. was closed north of Jones Dr. while police investigated, and drivers were being asked to avoid the area.

Police have not released any information on the identities of the deceased individuals at this time, but they are asking for anyone who believes they know something to contact Middlesex County OPP or Crime Stoppers.

Alexandra Jones is a breaking news reporter, working out of the Star’s radio room in Toronto. Follow her on Twitter: @AlexandraMaeJ

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Calgary police report 5 pedestrian deaths in 2018, up from 2 in 2017 – Calgary

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Calgary police confirm five pedestrians have been killed so far in 2018, up from only two deaths in all of 2017.

The total number of pedestrian-involved collisions is expected to be made available next week, but the city is already taking note of the recent rash of incidents.

Police have responded to multiple pedestrian-involved collisions over the course of the last two weeks.  A 70-year-old man hit on Thursday was taken to hospital in life-threatening condition, but has since improved.  Days earlier, another man in his 70s died after being hit by a vehicle downtown.  A three-year-old boy was also killed last Friday, after being hit by a vehicle in northwest Calgary.


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“It was a deadly week,” said Ward 7 councillor Druh Farrell. “So we should be learning from every one of these incidents so that we can look to prevent them.”

According to city officials, pedestrians are involved in around one per cent of collisions, but account for 15 per cent of the total number of casualties on city streets.

“It is a little bit unusual, but not unprecedented that we have a number of collisions that are clustered together,” said City of Calgary traffic safety leader Tony Churchill. “We’re trending similar to previous years.”

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The conversation around pedestrian safety has been top of mind recently, with the frequency of these collisions and the debate over lowering residential speed limits.  A video also surfaced this week of a fifth grader trying to cross Acadia Drive S.E. at an unmarked crosswalk, with cars zipping by.

Churchill said the city is working to tackle the issue.

“Traffic calming, putting in enhanced crossings and other things like modifying our traffic signals so that pedestrians get a little bit of a head start before traffic starts to move,” Churchill said, describing some of the measures the city is pursuing.

According to Churchill, 130 rectangular rapid flashing beacons have been installed, enhancements have been made to overhead flashing lights at multiple crosswalks around the city. Traffic calming has also been installed at over 60 locations.


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Bridgeland is one of the pilot locations for the traffic-calming curbs — a measure the community association believes is already making a difference.

“It’s a massive improvement,” said Bridgeland-Riverside Community Association planning director Ali McMillan. “People saunter across the crosswalk now and they don’t feel that they have to hurry through the intersection. They’re so much more visible than they were before.”

Officials hope to be able to implement more of the strategy, but it depends on budget talks later this year.

“We’re going to continue doing all that work,” Churchill said. “Council indicated they may be funding that pedestrian strategy in a more meaningful way, so that’s really positive.”

The city is hosting community traffic safety meetings to give residents a chance to raise concerns about problem areas.

The plan is to take that feedback and use it to implement the pedestrian strategy, pending the funding in next year’s budget.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Sask. work deaths reaching crisis level, says U of R professor

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A rising number of work-related deaths have reached a crisis level, according to University of Regina associate professor Sean Tucker.

37 people have been victims of work fatalities from January to the end of August in 2018. That’s up from 27 in all of 2017 and 31 in 2016.

In 2012, the number of workplace deaths hit a high of 60. Since then, the numbers have been steadily declining- until this year.

Work-related deaths in Saskatchewan are on the rise after hitting a ten-year low in 2017.

Meanwhile, Alberta and Manitoba are both seeing much lower fatal injury rates during the same time period, though it should be noted Manitoba uses a different reporting system for vehicle-related incidents.

This year, the leading causes of workplace fatalities in Saskatchewan are occupational disease and motor vehicle-related incidents. It’s a shift from 2017 when the leading causes were occupational diseases and acute injuries.

According to the Worker’s Compensation Board, occupational disease-related fatalities are often diagnosed years after a workplace exposure.

The group expects occupational disease-related deaths will continue as workers in the province are often exposed to asbestos, putting them at risk of disease or death decades into the future.

The stats don’t always reflect the faces, families and stories of those who were lost, but Tucker said there are concrete steps that can be taken to reverse the dangerous trend.


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“It doesn’t have to be this way in Saskatchewan,” Tucker said. “Serious injury and fatalities are preventable- and actually quite easily preventable.”

He’s calling for enhanced occupational health officer training, increased police knowledge of occupational health and safety criminal charges and a greater awareness of workplace safety inspections.

Tucker would also like to see more safety materials for workers who have learned English as a second language, and more education about basic rights in the workplace.

All workers have the right to know about hazards in the workplace, participate in the control of hazards in the workplace and be part of an occupational health and safety committee, and refuse work that is usually dangerous without repercussions.


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Tucker wants to see new provisions added to existing legislation that would allow workers to refuse work they believe is dangerous on behalf of their younger, more vulnerable colleagues.

The Saskatchewan Workers’ Compensation board also said it’s changing some of its approaches in hopes of keeping more people safe.

“All workplace fatalities are preventable,” Vice-president of prevention Phil Germain said. “We all need to step up to make our workplaces safer. All organizations, no matter their size, should be investing in their own safety programs and make safety a key part of their culture. Safety belongs to each of us individually as much as it is a collective concern. Working safely is just smart business and it’s the right thing to do.”

It’s a long road ahead, but Tucker is optimistic things could start moving in the right direction if action is taken.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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