The jury at the coroner’s inquest into the death of a Lac Seul First Nation man, shot by provincial police in 2010, made recommendations this week that police find ways to respond more quickly to critical incidents in northwestern Ontario.
Brian Gray, 39, was killed by members of the Ontario Provincial Police emergency response team outside a residence at Whitefish Bay in the Lac Seul First Nation near Sioux Lookout, Ont., on May 9, 2010.
After receiving reports of shots being fired at the residence, it took officers more than four hours to reach the home, according to the Special Investigations Unit, (SIU), the police oversight body that found police were justified in using lethal force.
By the time the emergency response team arrived, the situation had escalated to a hostage taking, according to the SIU report issued in October 2010.
Gray had just released a hostage and fired a rifle into the air and “emitted a loud scream” when police shot him several times, the report said.
The jury at the inquest found that Gray died of “gunshot wounds to the torso.” It ruled the death homicide, which in a coroner’s inquest means a death as a result of the purposeful actions of another person and does not carry any criminal connotations.
Aboriginal Awareness training recommended
Among the 18 recommendations the jury issued on Wednesday:
- Strategies should be explored to reduce the response time for provision of OPP tactical resources for critical incidents in Ontario, especially in the Northwest.
- Options for more effective tactical response should be explored, including but not limited to enhanced Emergency Response Team (ERT) training, upgrading the North Western Region ERT team to level 2 Tactical capabilities, and placing a Tactics and Rescue unit (TRU) team in Northern Ontario.
- The OPP should ensure that all members working with aboriginal communities and people receive Aboriginal Awareness Training that should be updated when necessary.
- When OPP Officers are deployed in a location where they might be expected to attend on a First Nation, they should attend and be familiarized with that First Nation soon after being deployed to that Detachment.
- When a critical incident occurs, an individual or individuals should be identified by Lac Seul First Nation to liaise between the police, First Nation and family of the subject, for the purpose of improving communication, and keeping the families informed of the progress of an incident.
- Lac Seul First Nation should receive funding to hire a certified mental health counsellor, to hire and train additional mental health workers, to train its existing mental health workers, and to increase awareness of mental health issues and to initiate early intervention within the community.
Recommendations from coroner’s inquests are not binding.