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Hearing pushed back

The inquest into the tragic death of an area teenager could expand to include six other First Nation youth who died under similar circumstances.
Derry Millar recommended that the Reggie Bushie inquest expand to include the deaths of six other First Nation youth. (Jeff Labine,

The inquest into the tragic death of an area teenager could expand to include six other First Nation youth who died under similar circumstances.

The pre-inquest hearing for 15-year-old Reggie Bushie was scheduled to begin on Wednesday morning in Thunder Bay, but once again was pushed back.

Attorney Derry Millar, who spoke on behalf of all parties, said Nishnawbe Aski Nation, as well as Bushie's family, wanted to expand the scope of the inquest to include the deaths of six other First Nation youth, including Jethro Anderson, 15, Curran Strang, 18, Paul Panacheese, 19, Robyn Harper, 18, Kyle Morriseau, 17, and 15-year-old Jordan Wabasse.

Millar said a doctor involved in the inquest required more information before allowing the applications through and until that happens the hearing is on hold.

He wasn’t sure how long it would take to make a decision on the applications.

“If the applications are granted it will mean that the other six names will be looked at as part of the inquest,” Millar said. “I know NAN made the request through their lawyer Julian Falconer. What we were going to look at today was the jury roll but we put that issue over. I thought it was reasonable and I recommended it.”

Falconer said the reason that NAN wanted to include those six other deaths was because it shows a pattern in the way each have died. The deaths of those youth have caused many First Nation communities to fear sending their children away to school.

NAN had attempted an earlier in the inquest for an application to include the deaths of five youth including Bushie. But following the deaths of Kyle Morriseau and Jordan Wabasse, the application was revised to include all seven.

Falconer said they wanted to try to address those community fears and try to promote change.

“There are undeniable patterns in these deaths,” Falconer said. “The patterns raise so many questions. Youth are leaving their homes and traveling hundreds of kilometres to attend school in Thunder Bay. Five of the seven deaths are because of drowning. Communities are concerned when they send their youth away. It is not enough to consider one death.”

Falconer said the situation begs the question on why First Nation communities have to send their children away to get a high school education.

He added that it’s another example of how First Nation people are treated like third-class citizens.

Bushie's body was recovered from the McIntyre River on Nov. 1, 2007.  He was a student from Poplar Hill First Nation. The exact cause of death is still unknown.

A coroner's inquest with a five-member jury panel was supposed to commence in 2009, but it's been put on hold several times due to concerns about a lack of First Nations representation on the province's jury rolls.

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