For a second time, Nunavut org asks Ontario for inquiry into Inuit child’s injuries
Nunavut-born Joshua Salmonson suffered burn injuries at Ontario school for the blind
Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. has asked the Ontario government to hold a public inquiry into the treatment of a blind and disabled Inuit child who suffered injuries at the Ontario school he was attending.
NTI president Cathy Towntogie sent a letter to Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne July 8, requesting the province look into a 2010 incident in which Nunavut-born Joshua Salmonson, now in his teens, suffered burn injuries at the W. Ross MacDonald School for the Blind in Brantford, Ont.
In late 2011, the boy’s parents, Paul and Rebecca Salmonson, filed a statement of claim in Ontario Superior Court against the W. Ross MacDonald School, the Ontario ministry of education, the Children’s Aid Society of Brantford and the Brantford Police Service.
Their statement of claim alleges that in January 2010, after bringing their son back home to Ottawa for a visit, they found open sores on their son’s buttocks caused by burns they say could only have been inflicted at the Ross MacDonald School.
A doctor at an Appletree clinic in Ottawa said the injuries were three to four days old, which means they must have occurred at the school, the statement of claim said.
But the school did not report the injuries to the Salmonsons and has not disclosed to them the results of their own investigation, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit also said the child, who was 11 at the time, suffered permanent scarring and that staff at the Ross MacDonald School used excessive restraining methods and damaged the boy’s face by using “inappropriate tooth-brushing methods.”
“Based on (these) and many other facts contained in the… statement of claim, it apparent that a thorough, speedy and effective public inquiry into the Joshua Salmonson matter is warranted, and indeed, is necessary in the public interest,” read the NTI letter.
This is not the first time NTI has made the request; Nunavut’s land claims organization wrote in 2012 to then-Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty calling for an inquiry.
A 2013 response from Ontario’s Attorney General’s office said that public inquiries are not used “to examine individual cases when there are existing, effective avenues of review.”
“With respect, it is NTI’s view that there have been no existing, effective avenues of review for this matter,” NTI’s letter said.
The Salmonsons, who now live in Nova Scotia, have said they can no longer afford to pay for lawyers and that legal aid officials in Ontario and Nova Scotia have told them they do not have the resources to handle such a large file.
The civil action continues to navigate through the justice system “at an extremely slow pace,” NTI said, and “has exhausted the financial resources of the Salmonson family.”
“In any event, the civil action would be structurally inadequate in bringing about the truth and justice that the Salmonson family deserves and in restoring public confidence in WRMS,” the letter continues.
This is not the first time the Salmonsons have gone to court on behalf of their child.
In 2006, Justice Earl Johnson ordered the Government of Nunavut to continue paying the cost of health treatment for the boy including an essential nutritional supplement called Pediasure.
GN health officials had cut that funding in December 2004, but without the Pediasure, the Salmonson family said the boy suffered malnutrition and rapid weight loss.
Ironically, the GN eventually agreed to arrangements, starting in 2006, that saw the boy begin care at the Ross MacDonald School.
While the Salmonsons filed their own statement of claim, in 2012, a separate class action was filed in connection with injuries and mistreatment allegedly suffered by students at WRMS dating back to the 1950s and 1960s.
“We are confident that a public inquiry would bring about positive changes at WRMS and be useful in preventing future injury to the most vulnerable members of our society,” NTI said.