ALST and other participants withdraw from the Sinclair Inquest.

February 18, 2014 ¬– Citing the Court’s refusal to address issues of systemic racism in the health care system, Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto (ALST) will formally withdraw from the Inquest into the death of Brian Sinclair.

Another Aboriginal organization that has standing at the inquest, Ka Ni Kanichihk, will also withdraw. Brian Sinclair’s family and the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs are expected to announce that they will not attend or participate in Phase II of the inquest, which is starting today.

ALST chose to participate in the inquest because the circumstances of Brian Sinclair’s death raised concerns about systemic discrimination in the health care system. In a ruling during the inquest in 2009, Judge Raymond Wyant said questions about racism, poverty, and disability would play a significant role when the inquest considered how similar deaths could be prevented in the future. In public comments in February 2010, Manitoba Attorney General Andrew Swan said that the inquest would address broader issues raised by Aboriginal groups.

However, the current presiding judge, Judge Timothy Preston, made a ruling on January 10, 2014 that ALST believes significantly narrowed the scope of the next phase of the inquest. He decided that only one outside witness would address all questions related to the experiences of Aboriginal people in the health care system. ALST believes that one witness alone cannot meaningfully address this issue. Nine witnesses will focus on patient flow and the majority of the expected witnesses are employees of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

A number of witnesses have testified that staff at the Health Sciences Center made assumptions about Brian Sinclair – that he was intoxicated, that he was homeless, that he had nowhere else to go. Nurse witnesses have also testified that they did not see Mr. Sinclair, even though video footage showed many of them walking right by him and looking directly into the waiting room where he was seated in his wheelchair.

“The question to be addressed in Phase II of the inquest is what can be done to prevent future similar deaths?” said Emily Hill, senior staff lawyer at ALST, who has been attending the inquest.

“ALST is disappointed that Phase II of the inquest will focus primarily on patient flow, rather than the role discrimination may have played in Mr. Sinclair’s death. We believe that the legitimate concerns of many people in Winnipeg, in Manitoba, and across the country about Mr. Sinclair’s death will not be addressed”, she said.

“ALST did not make this decision lightly. ALST got involved in this case because we thought it was important to provide an Aboriginal perspective and to share expertise about the experiences of Aboriginal patients to address best practices for providing care to our community. Unfortunately the inquest is now focused on patient flow,” said Christa Big Canoe, Legal Advocacy Director of ALST. “Because the issues which brought ALST into this process are no longer central to the inquest, ALST can no longer justify expending its limited resources participating in the inquest.


Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto

803-415 Yonge Street Toronto ON M5B 2E7
Tel. 416-408-3967 or 4041 Email. alst@web.ca
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Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto is very involved in advocacy and law reform activities. Below are some of the projects that we have worked on.

Amdendments to the Criminal Code

In 2006, the federal government proposed amdendments to the Criminal Code to restrict access to conditional sentences (Bill C-9) and to increase the minimum sentences and add new mimimums for certain firearms offences (Bill C-10). ALST made representations before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on both amendments (note the submissions regarding Bill C-10 will appear shortly).

Brief to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Bill C-9

Transcript of Committee Hearing Appearance

Brief to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on Bill C-10

Transcript of Committee Hearing Appearance (Note: ALST's submissions begin at 1555, near the last quarter of the transcript)

Policing

ALST has long been involved in issues relating to policing and the Aboriginal Community. In 1997, we appeared before the Ontario Legislative Assembly to provide our comments on the Police Services Amendment Act, 1997.

Appearance Before the Legislative Assembly Regarding the Police Services Act, 1997

In October, 2003, we appeared before the Police Services Board's Joint Working Group on Race Relations to comment on the Group's report.

Written Submissions to the Joint Working Group on Race Relations

Youth Criminal Justice Act

Over the past few years, the federal government made a number of proposals for replacing the Young Offenders Act with a new Youth Criminal Justice Act. The first attempt at amending the Act was Bill C-3. ALST appeared before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights on March 1, 2000, to present our views on the bill.

Brief to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights

Transcript of Committee Hearing Appearance

Bill C-3 was replaced in 2001, by Bill C-7. The House of Commons did not hold hearings into the bill, as they felt it was similar to C-3. ALST appeared before the Senate Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs on October 23, 2001, to put forward our concerns regarding the bill.

Brief to the Standing Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Transcript of Committee Hearing Appearance

In both our submissions we stressed the need for the new Act to include provisions equivalent to section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code - the Gladue section. This section was absent in both drafts of the bill. Thanks in part to our submissions the Senate amended the bill to include a s. 718.2(e) section in the new Youth Criminal Justice Act


International Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

As a signatory to the International Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, the federal and provincial governments are required to report to the United Nations on the progress being made in this area. Canada recently submitted its 13th and 14th reports to the Convention. ALST has filed what is referred to as a Shadow Report in response to the government's reports. It is our position that Canada and the provinces have failed to comply with the Convention as it applies to Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.

Shadow Report to the International Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

Section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code

Section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code is the basis for the Supreme Court of Canada's decision in R v. Gladue. The article below, published in the Globe and Mail, was written in response to criticisms of the section.

Aboriginal Offenders and the Criminal Code

Legal Aid Services Act, 1998

Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto made a presentation to the Ontario Legislative Committee examining the Legal Aid Services Act.

Presentation on the Legal Services Act, 1998

From Punishment to Healing

Jonathan Rudin, Program Director at Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto, gave an address entitled "From Punishment to Healing" at a Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice Conference. The talk addresses incorporating principles of restorative justice into the operation of the criminal justice system.

From Punishment to Healing

Please note that the Legal Clinic is not able to respond to inquiries it receives via e-mail. If you have an issue you would like to discuss with one of the clinic staff, please call Monday, Wednesday or Friday from 9 to 5 and ask to speak to the intake worker.
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