Inquest in the deaths of 5 men to begin next week

Upcoming inquest will offer family members and the public insight into the deaths of five men who passed following interactions with police in Winnipeg. Morgan Modjeski reports.

Family members and the public will soon learn more about the deaths of five men following police interactions in Winnipeg as next week, an inquest putting the circumstances before and after the fatalities under the microscope will begin.

The inquests will examine the circumstances around the deaths of Patrick Gagnon, Michael Bagot, Sean Thompson, Matthew Fosseneuve, and Randy Cochrane, who all died within roughly a year-long period following interactions with members of the WPS, the inquest ordered by the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office to determine not fault, or culpability, but whether or not future deaths of a similar nature, can be prevented.

“I think for the longest time we have been hoping for meaningful recommendations, including effective mental-health training for police,” said Emily Bagot Sideen, the cousin of Michael Bagot.   

“We want to see the cultural changes in these systems that will aim to prevent these tragic deaths, and also respect the person posthumously and respect the family as they navigate this process, because the family voice hasn’t really been heard.” 

Sideen is speaking about her family’s hopes for the inquest. She says they’ve been waiting for years for answers and insight into their loved one’s death, saying her cousin was in distress and needed medical help, not a police response, and hopes the inquest starts a larger conversation about police reform and training — alongside the lack of the social and healthcare supports overall — for people in crisis. 

“I hope this really elevates our community consciousness around these issues because so many people are actually impacted by this.” 

The inquest, which starts Tuesday, will see evidence concerning all of the deaths inserted in the public record, in some cases for the first time, as while the IIU investigated all of the incidents — and determined officers did not contribute to any of the five deaths — the source material, eyewitness interviews, video reviewed and other materials may find their way into evidence.

On Friday, CityNews reached out to the WPS for comment on the upcoming inquests, but due to the fact the matter is before the courts, a service spokesperson said it could not comment. 

Justice Minister Matt Wiebe was unavailable for an interview on Friday concerning the upcoming inquest, a statement from the Minister reaffirmed the new NDP’s government’s commitments to revamp the justice system here in the province. 

 “As the Minister of Justice, I recognize the painful history and complicated relationship between law enforcement and Indigenous people in our province. Our government will work to reset this relationship and we are committed to building a justice system that is fair, culturally appropriate, and free from discrimination,” said Minister Wiebe.

The inquest is expected to last several weeks.

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