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  • Writer's picturePATH Legal

Call for Mi'kmaw-Led Fatality Inquiry and Justice Reforms in the Wake of Tragic Deaths

Updated: Jul 10, 2023


As we recognize National Indigenous History Month this June, we are reminded of the continuous need to move towards reconciliation and reflect on the harmful mistreatment of Indigenous people in Canada.

Recent tragic and preventable deaths in provincial custody have once again highlighted the ongoing, systemic mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples within the Canadian justice system. In response, the Prisoner Advocacy and Transformational Hub (PATH) and East Coast Prison Justice Society (ECPJS) are calling for a Mi’kmaw-led fatality inquiry into the deaths of Peter Paul and Sarah Rose Denny while in custody.

Peter Paul, a 27-year-old, Two-Spirit individual from Eskasoni First Nation, died by suicide in the Cape Breton Correctional Facility. Sarah Rose Denny, a 36-year-old mother from Eskasoni First Nation, passed away in the hospital after being transferred from the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility in Burnside due to complications from pneumonia.

A fatality inquiry would provide effective, responsive, and evidence-based recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future. We are calling for a fatality inquiry to address the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Peter Paul and Sarah Rose Denny, an evaluation of the adequacy of medical and mental health care and treatment within provincial jails, and an examination of the availability and effectiveness of support and services for Mi’kmaw individuals in custody. Moreover, the inquiry should address the broader issues of the overrepresentation of Mi’kmaw people in the provincial correctional system, and the issues faced by women, particularly Mi’kmaw women from Cape Breton, who are forced to serve their sentences far away from their families, friends, and communities.

On Tuesday, June 6th, there will be a public march and rally at the Peace and Friendship Park in Halifax, Nova Scotia, to honour the memories of Sarah Rose Denny, Chantel Moore, Peter Paul, Skylar Sappier, and Gladys Marie Simon. We will hear from their loved ones and add our voices to the call for a public inquiry and systemic reforms that prioritize the safety of Indigenous Peoples. We invite everyone to join us at Peace and Friendship Park in the South End of Halifax at 2pm, as we stand together to call for justice for the families of those who have died and to demand an inquiry into these senseless deaths.

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