7 Fallen Feathers - First Nations Youth Inquest Media Releases
Date: June 28, 2016
Jethro Anderson’ s Family Reacts to the Verdict of the First Nations Youth Inquest
THUNDER BAY, ON: Today the jury released a verdict and recommendations in the inquest into the deaths of seven First Nation youth. The families welcome the recommendations but believe they must be implemented to make a real difference for First Nation youth’s access to and opportunity for safety and education.
Stella Anderson, Jethro’s mother, was particularly glad to hear that the jury recommended improvements to Police investigations and the way that Police will communicate to families and search parties looking for missing youth. She agreed to become a party to the inquest because of her experience 16 years ago, searching for Jethro when he was missing. She wants better protocols and communications around searches and the jury seems to agree.
After hearing months of evidence and testimony of 146 witnesses throughout the inquest, the jury found that Jethro died from drowning and that the manner in which he came to his death is undetermined. He went missing on October 28, 2000 and his body was found on November 11, 2000, in the Kaministiqua River.
Stella recognizes the importance of the inquest and the recommendations but also feels like she did not get all of answers that she needed to about how Jethro died. His death still weighs heavy on her. She said, “Not a day passes where I do not think about Jethro. I often think about his last moments and worry. Something as small as doing a load of laundry in cold water, washing my hair, taking a bath, or watching TV can give me anxiety. These are all moments that are part of every day life and they remind me of my son drowning. No mother should have to experience this ever, but I do, even 16 years after Jethro’s death.”
The fact that Stella has more questions than answers about Jethro’s death is worrisome. Despite this, she remains hopeful that the recommendations will be implemented so that investigations of missing First Nation youth in Thunder Bay and elsewhere will result in better communication between police and families. She stated that she “believes that something must be learned from this inquest and that recommendations must be followed so that lessons from Jethro’s death are not wasted.”
Kyle Morrisseau’ s Father Reacts to the Verdict of the First Nations Youth Inquest
Date: June 28, 2016
THUNDER BAY, ON: Today the jury released a verdict and recommendations in the inquest into the deaths of seven First Nation youth. Christian Morrisseau, Kyle’s father was unable to attend the verdict in Thunder Bay today but made a heart felt statement directed to his family, the other six families whose children were the subject of this inquest and other parties involved in the inquest:
I miss my son Kyle and my heart goes out to all of the other families that are going through the hardship of losing a child. But I thank god and creator for sending me my son for 17 years to see him grow up as a young man. I am proud of my son Kyle and I am proud of the other six students for their strong teachings of love and sacrifice for generations to come. I believe that all seven students were looking down and shining on all of us, the families, the Coroner, the Jury, the Lawyers and those who took part in the inquest with great peace. Form this day forward, I will try to hurt no more and until the day I die and get to hold my son again, I will speak and teach others about what these seven fallen feathers did for other students. I believe that they are now flying free with crowns of flowers for all of us today. Their job is done. I am very happy and proud of my son Josh, Kyle’s brother, who continues taking the lead for me and his young siblings in this inquest and in other ways. I am also proud and owe much respect to my son Bret who will be going out to high school next September. He has a strong, brave heart of hope and courage, given that he lost his older brother when he left home for school. He reminds me that there is faith and hope for all of us to gain knowledge and education when he and other First Nation children like him leave their families, loved ones and their home communities to learn, to improve their lives and to create opportunity.
Jordan Wabasse’ s Family Reacts to the Verdict of the First Nations Youth Inquest
Date: June 28, 2016
THUNDER BAY, ON: Jordan Wabasse’s family welcomes the recommendations the jury released today. Jordan’s parents Bernice and Derek Jacob are glad that the recommendations strongly stated that both on and off reserve students deserve equity in education and that funding should not be determined based on their residence but on needs. Bernice and Derek believe that now that the inquest is over, the real work of implementing the recommendations needs to start.
The inquest heard evidence about how First Nation families often cannot afford to move off-reserve for school attendance. The inquest also heard that funding was insufficient and excluded First Nation students whose parents leave reserves to provide safe households in the city. Bernice explained that “it is not easy for families to just move away from home to stay with their kids while they attend school. It is too costly.” Derek added “that is why we are glad the jury recommended early childhood education, elementary school, high school facilities and resources in First Nation communities. These are valuable recommendations that can increase our children’s success if they are implemented.”
Derek noted that there are risks to moving a whole family to a city for a high school student. He said “sometimes you cannot find the same job in a city that you have been doing on the reserve. First Nation people are sometimes even denied housing or job opportunities because of their race.” Bernice added, “Not all Aboriginal people fit the stereotypes that are assumed about First Nation people from reserves. Many of us do well in our communities and we want to keep building communities with strong youth that have real opportunities. Leaving our families, culture, language and traditional ways is not a good option”
Bernice said “our family participated in the inquest because we did not want any other family to go through what we went through. Some communities do not even have a high school and no choice but to send their children away for school. We have kept our younger sons home but at the cost of improving their learning opportunities.” She added that “When Jordan was missing for so long, we were hopeful. When his body was found, we lost our son and his bright future but everyone else lost the opportunity to learn from our son a love for hockey, love for nature, love for hunting and our family lost the knowledge he could pass on to his younger brothers and other community members. No family should have to feel this type of loss. No family should have to send young teenagers away from home for education---that is why it is so important that the recommendations the jury made about education in First Nation communities are actually put into place.”