A second person has been arrested in connection with the death of a 37-year-old Inuk woman who was initially thought to be a missing person, Ottawa police said Sunday night.
This update came the day after police charged 18-year-old Lennese Kuplu with second-degree murder and indignity to a dead body in the death of Susan Kuplu. Officers did not say how the two were related.
The Ottawa Police Service did not provide the name of the second person arrested in a brief update on Twitter on Sunday evening, only saying the individual would appear in court in Ottawa on Monday morning.
The Major Crime Unit has a second person in custody in relation to the homicide investigation of Susan Kuplu.
They will be appearing at court in Ottawa tomorrow morning.
A man from Inukjuak said the failure of a nurse stationed in the northern Quebec community to recognize the signs of botulism cost his wife her life, and it was only after she died that clinic staff took his adult daughter’s symptoms seriously.
Jobie Kasudluak and his daughter Janice travelled to Kuujjuarapik this week to share their family’s story with Commissioner Jacques Viens, who is leading an inquiry looking into how Indigenous people are treated by Quebec government services.
It was the first time the retired judge and his entourage travelled to Quebec’s Inuit territory of Nunavik since the inquiry began two years ago.
Kasudluak testified that his wife, 54-year-old Eva Kullulak-Ookpik, had been telling the nurse for three days that there was something seriously wrong with her.
He said when he brought her to the clinic on Friday, July 7, 2017, she was struggling to breathe, she was dizzy and vomiting, and she could hardly keep her eyes open.
« The nurse on call was a young, new nurse, » he said. « She didn’t seem to know what she was doing. »
He said the nurse had to be persuaded to do blood tests, and once they were done, she sent the couple home.
« She told us there was nothing they could do, » he said. « We’d have to wait for the results until Monday. »
Begged to stay at clinic
Kasudluak said his wife begged to stay at the clinic overnight, where she’d have access to oxygen to ease her laboured breathing.
« The nurse said, ‘Emergency room is for emergencies only. If somebody comes in, you’d be in the way, » Kasudluak told the commission. He pointed out there were two other rooms at the clinic, with two beds in each of them, but still, « they refused her. »
By then it was well after midnight on Saturday, July 8. The couple returned home.
Kasudluak thought his wife was asleep when he tried to nudge her awake the next morning.
« Hi dear, are you OK? » he asked her.
But Eva Kullulak-Ookpik had died overnight, of botulism poisoning, from having eaten an Inuit delicacy of dried beluga a few days before.
[Had she been white,] she would have been on a medevac in an hour.– Jobie Kasudluak, on the medical care his wife Eva Kullulak-Ookpik received
Health Canada describes botulism as a rare but serious illness that should be treated as a medical emergency. It says anyone with the signs, symptoms or history of botulism should be hospitalized immediately.
Outbreaks of foodborne botulism from traditional foods have occurred often enough in the past that posters describing the symptoms are on public display throughout Nunavik.
Retired Superior Court Justice Jacques Viens and his entourage travelled to Kuujjuarapik in Nunavik to hear about Inuit experiences’ with Quebec government services. (Catou MacKinnon/CBC)
Daughter showing same symptoms
Kasudluak’s daughter, Janice, didn’t know her mother was sick when she and her two-year-old daughter ate some of the same dried beluga.
Janice, too, had been calling the Inukjuak health clinic and describing her symptoms: her vomit was yellow, she was having trouble breathing, and her vision was blurred — all signs of botulism.
She said she called three times before she was eventually counselled on Friday to come to the clinic the next day.
On Saturday, she woke up to a phone call from the health clinic telling her that her mother had died and asking her to come in.
Speaking in Inuktitut, Janie Kasudluak told the inquiry that by the time she got that phone call, she was so sick, the caller’s news didn’t even register.
‘I lost my best friend’
Janice Kasudluak was flown to Montreal, and her father went with her.
« I lost my best friend, and I was about to lose my daughter, » the father of nine and grandfather of 21 told the commission, through tears.
Jobie Kasudluak was at his daughter’s side in hospital when she regained consciousness, two days later. By then, Janice’s two-year-old daughter was also sick. (The latency period for botulism can be longer in children.)
She was flown to the nearest hospital, in the Nunavik community of Puvirnituq (often referred to as POV), about 180 kilometres away, but then she was sent home before she had fully recovered.
« Janice’s doctor from Montreal General [Hospital] actually had to request that this little girl has to be medevaced [back] to POV and kept there until she’s better, » Jobie Kasudluak testified.
Coroner never contacted family
The coroner’s office, whose mandate is to find the cause of death and determine if it could have been prevented, issued a report on Eva Kullulak-Ookpik’s death in April 2018.
Coroner Steeve Poisson wrote that when she consulted the health clinic the two days before she died, food poisoning had been suspected. Her lab results, as well as her daughter and granddaughters’ results, confirmed the presence of Clostridium Botulinum. Poisson confirmed the dried beluga had been the source of the bacterial contamination.
He concluded Kullulak-Ookpik had died « a natural death, » and he made no recommendations.
The coroner’s office never contacted anyone in the Kasudluak family to share its findings.
Asked by the Viens commission’s lawyer, Edith-Farah Elassal, whether he believes he and his wife would have been treated differently had they been white, Kasudluak didn’t hesitate.
« She would have been on a medevac in an hour, » he said, matter of factly. « I’ve seen it with teachers and other white people in town — getting medevaced and coming back on a scheduled flight the next day. »
Kasudluak said before his wife’s sudden illness, he’d seen very ill Inuit people turned away from the clinic, only to die a day or two later, and he’s seen it happen since.
« There’s people still being sent home when they should have been sent to a hospital for observation, » he said.
« I just hope that nobody ever goes through what we went through. »
The Viens commission into the treatment of Indigenous people in Quebec held five days of hearings in Kuujjuarapik this month. (Catou MacKinnon/CBC)
Lucy Kumarluk breaks down when she thinks about her son, his life on the streets in Montreal and the brother she lost in the same city 16 years ago.
« We thought it would never come to this point, never. Our family? No, nobody was going to be homeless, » said Kumarluk, eyes wet with tears.
The Inuk woman testified at the Viens Commission hearings as they began in the village of Kuujjuarapik, at the mouth of the Great Whale River along Hudson Bay.
It’s the first time the commissioner, retired Superior Court Justice Jacques Viens, and his entourage have travelled to Nunavik, the Inuit territory in Quebec’s far north, since the hearings began nearly two years ago.
The inquiry, set up in the wake of allegations from First Nations women in Val-d’Or that they’d been mistreated and abused by some Sûreté du Québec officers, is examining ways of improving how Quebec delivers public services to Indigenous people.
Kumarluk said her son refuses to come home, even though she’s flown all the way to Montreal to try to persuade him.
He told her there is nothing to do, nowhere to stay and no support when you return to Nunavik after being homeless in Montreal.
« It’s very painful to see your child on the streets, having no place in this world, » said Kumarluk, through more tears.
No news about her brother
Kumarluk’s brother, Matthew Kitishimik, died in 2002. For years, the family believed he had been murdered.
His body was found, decomposed, in the Lachine Canal. He was only identified two weeks later.
« I was trying to get information, and nobody could really understand me, and nobody could really help me. All the phone calls I made didn’t really go anywhere, » she testified.
After a few weeks, Kumarluk said, she reached a police officer who was helpful.
He told her he would try to get a conviction if necessary, and he would work on the case until it was solved.
« We never heard [from] him again. We didn’t know what happened to Matthew. We didn’t know how he died. »
When Kumarluk first told her brother’s story to Viens Commission staff, they obtained the coroner’s report into her brother’s death, completed in 2005, three years after his body was found.
The coroner determined that Kumarluk’s brother had been suffering from psychological problems, that he drank to help soothe an old work injury and drowned accidentally.
A better life?
Over the years, Kumarluk has seen many Inuit move to Montreal because of overcrowding in homes in Nunavik and family problems.
« People move away down south thinking they will have a better life, but they’re out on the streets, » said Kumarluk.
Kumarluk called on the Quebec government to provide more psychologists in Nunavik, having herself obtained help via video conference, accessing that service while in a room filled with other clients.
She said mental health professionals also need to do more work to understand who they’re treating.
« They send strangers from the south, from Toronto or Ottawa, and they have no idea what the culture is. »