Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Police-Linked Indigenous Deaths in Timmins, Ont., Spark Sorrow, Anger

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Police-Linked Indigenous Deaths in Timmins, Ont., Spark Sorrow, Anger

Article excerpt

Two police-linked deaths probed in Timmins, Ont.

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The weekend police killing of a young man and the death of an ailing older woman after her arrest has sparked grief and anger among Indigenous people in northern Ontario.

Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents nearly 50 Indigenous communities in the region, expressed concern over the incidents in Timmins, Ont., a hub for many First Nations activities, but said it would be "premature" to make assumptions about the deaths of two people from the same remote First Nation community north of the city.

"It's very troubling," Fiddler said Wednesday in a brief interview from Timmins. "The families have a lot of questions."

In the first incident, Timmins police shot and killed Joey Knapaysweet, 21, on Saturday. Details are scant but the province's Special Investigations Unit said officers responded mid-morning to the Emergency Medical Services building and a man fled.

"There was an interaction between the man and officers and one of the officers discharged a firearm," the unit said in a statement. "The man was struck. He was taken to hospital where he was later pronounced dead."

The death of Agnes Sutherland, 62, also on the weekend, occurred after she had sought help at the Timmins District Hospital. According to the investigations unit, Sutherland was asked to leave and did so by taxi.

However, she was arrested after allegedly causing a disturbance at a shelter. Police took her to the station and put her in a cell, the unit said in a statement. The same evening, officers called for an ambulance to take her to hospital, where she was pronounced dead late Sunday.

"It is alleged that when police attended at the scene of the local shelter, Ms. Sutherland was treated roughly while being taken into police custody," Fiddler and two other Indigenous leaders said in a joint statement. "She suffered severe complications during her detention."

Knapaysweet and Sutherland were from the James Bay community of Fort Albany -- more than an hour's flight from Timmins -- where funerals for both were to take place.

In their statement, Fiddler, Grand Chief Jonathan Solomon of the Mushkegowuk Council and Fort Albany First Nation Chief Andrew Solomon expressed shock that two Fort Albany members had "died at the hands of police" and urged a speedy and thorough investigation. …

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