Minister open to meeting with families whose loved ones died at Winnipeg shelter

Minister of Housing, Addictions and Homelessness Bernadette Smith is “more than willing” to meet with families of Cheryl Whitford and Floyd Flett, two vulnerable people who died at a Winnipeg shelter. Morgan Modjeski reports.

Manitoba’s Minister of Housing, Addictions, and Homelessness says she wants to meet with two families who lost loved ones at a Winnipeg shelter, calling the deaths concerning and tragic.  

“My heart goes out to those families – losing a loved one is difficult. It’s concerning of course as a government whenever something like that happens and N’Dinawemak does amazing work, as does Main Street Project, as does Siloam Mission, in supporting our most vulnerable that need shelter.” 

In an exclusive interview with CityNews, Minister Bernadette Smith, called the deaths of both Cheryl Whitford and Floyd Flett a tragic loss. 

Cheryl Whitford, died at N’Dinawemak shelter, in 2022 after she went unchecked for several hours in 2022. (Photo Credit: Facebook)

“This is concerning on all levels and I know that the shelters – all shelters – are doing the best work that they can. I know they’re leading with compassion and I know all of the people that are working in the shelters are there because they care,” said Smith. 

Whitford died at the N’Dinawemak shelter on the Disraeli Freeway after going unchecked by staff for several hours in 2022 and Flett would die in 2023 after being struck numerous times in the head on the shelter’s front steps, a nearby SABE peace walker — one of six partners at the shelter — failing to intervene. 

Floyd Flett was injured after being attacked on the shelter’s steps in Dec. 2023 and would later die in hospital as a result of his injuries. (Photo Credit: Facebook)

Both Flett and Whitford’s families want public inquests into the fatal incidents to get answers and prevent future deaths. Saying she has spoken personally to N’Dinawemak executive and is confident the best course of action has been taken, Minister Smith wouldn’t go as far as joining the calls but says her government is taking the loss of the families seriously and wants to hear their concerns.

“We do trust the medical examiner’s opinion because they are an expert on what they do, and I would be more than willing to meet with the families. My door is always open,” explained Smith.

WATCH: Full interview: Minister open to meeting with families whose loved ones died at Winnipeg shelter

While reporting on the deaths, CityNews has learned the partnership behind the shelter — which has gotten roughly $5.7 million in funding from the province, will soon be shrinking, as the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs (AMC) contract with the shelter was not renewed, the organisation — who once played an “oversight” role out officially as of March 31, 2024.

SABE peace walker board chair, Brandy Bobier, said issues with communication and cooperation between AMC and other partner organisations have been present.

While Victoria Fisher, N’Dinawemak board chair, declined numerous interview requests, a statement reads, “Due to confidentiality and to protect internal processes, there is information I can’t share with you. As stated previously, N’Dinawemak takes seriously all concerns, actions are being taken, and stakeholders are informed. The organisation is Indigenous-led separate from the role of AMC. We value the role AMC has in serving relatives.”

N’Dinawemak, on the Disraeli Freeway, has the full faith of Minister Smith behind it, the Minister saying she’s personally met with the executive to talk about its path forward. (Photo Credit: Morgan Modjeski, CityNews)

AMC Grand Chief Cathy Merrick, said right now, it’s too early to speak on the restructuring, but says she’s getting updates, and she’ll be able to speak more in the future. 

“When the time comes, I’m sure we’ll be able to answer that question,” said Merrick. 

Addressing the restructuring, Smith says she has full faith in the shelter and its staff, saying the path it’s on now, is the right one. 

“When they knew there was an issue there, they took the best course of action and they have resolved and they have moved in a direction I trust,” said Smith. 

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today