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Chiefs blame negligence for death of woman in custody

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Northern chiefs claim they have evidence to indicate a woman who was in RCMP custody two weeks ago died of negligence.

The Manitoba Keetwatinowi Okimakanak, which represents 30 northern First Nations in Manitoba, announced Wednesday it will present its findings at a press conference Thursday.

"God’s Lake First Nation Chief Gilbert Andrews and councillor Hubert Watt will be joined by MKO Grand Chief David Harper to provide evidence what has become abundantly clear that RCMP and Health Canada breached duty of care," the MKO announcement said.

The 31-year-old woman, whose name has not been released, died in a Winnipeg hospital Nov. 30.

At the time, RCMP said the woman had been taken from a home on Nov. 28 after another individual called for assistance. She was taken to the local nursing station, where she received medical care, and was later lodged in a cell under the Intoxicated Persons Detention Act.

The next morning, RCMP said, the woman told an officer she was not feeling well, and she was returned to the nursing station and then flown to Winnipeg, where she died.

The death is being investigated by the RCMP D Division Serious Crime Unit as it’s considered an in-custody matter since the woman was in RCMP custody before her death.

In addition, the Brandon Police Service will review the investigation with a local community member selected by chief and council, who will be acting as an observer in the investigation.

Authorities said last week that the cause of death would be determined pending the results of an autopsy.

RCMP had no further comment to add Wednesday in advance of the chiefs’ announcement.

In the meantime, MKO gave no indication whether the findings chiefs plans to present Thursday are the result of an independent investigation by the local band or based on material from either of the two other reviews.

Infant's death also questioned

This is the second death in a little over a year that people in the remote fly-in community have questioned as preventable.

Earlier this month an inquest was called into the other death -- an infant who died more than a year ago. in the community, that of an infant over a year ago.

Two-month-old Drianna Ross was taken to the local nursing station with a fever on Nov. 22. 2011. Her parents were sent home with Tylenol for her. Over the next few days her condition worsened and her parents contacted the nursing station several times.

On Nov. 25, the baby was airlifted to hospital in Thompson. Despite treatment, she died of pneumonia the following day.

Her parents believe Drianna's life could have been saved had the nursing station staff heeded their warnings earlier and had her moved to a hospital sooner, an MKO spokesman said Wednesday.

God’s Lake is located 550 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.


Updated on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 5:10 PM CST: Corrects time reference.

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