Nunavut coroner’s office looking at all 2013 deaths by suicide
Only three cases chosen for public inquest will hear family testimony
Part of the Nunavut coroner’s office inquest into the record number of suicides in 2013 will include a review of all 45 deaths by suicides — and not just the three cases that will be targeted by the public inquest planned for later this year, the territory’s chief coroner clarified this week.
That was following a request from a community group in Kugluktuk, who asked the coroner’s office examine all of 2013’s 45 suicides.
The Society for a Healthier Kugluktuk offers cultural support and suicide prevention for residential school survivors and their families.
The group’s executive director, Mike Webster, was concerned that a public inquest, which committed to randomly choosing three suicides to examine, would lose the bigger picture.
Examining all 45 suicides “would be of real value [to understand] the full range of issues, circumstances and approaches,” he said in an email to the coroner’s office this week.
Chief coroner Padma Suramala said her office has in fact been reviewing all 45 completed suicides from last year, summarizing the risk factors whichled to those deaths.
“That will be presented to the inquest for making appropriate recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future,” Suramala said.
The “discretionary inquest” called under the Coroner’s Act will still involve selecting three of the 45 suicide deaths in the territory, chosen at random from each of Nunavut’s three regions.
Family members of those three deceased persons will be asked to answer questions at the inquest, which Suramala acknowledges won’t be easy.
“It’s a very sensitive issue and I respect the feelings of all Nunavummiut,” she said.
The inquest, which is still in its early planning stages, will be held in Iqaluit later this year and will be open to the public and media.
Six jury members will hear each of the three cases and then make recommendations on how those deaths could have been prevented.
Suramala said the inquest will also involve psychiatrists, elders, religious leaders, researchers who have studied suicide and any community members who want to share their ideas.
Webster called Suramala’s approach “very positive.”
Of last year’s 45 suicides, three took place in Kugluktuk, and another in the western Nunavut since the beginning of 2014.
“It’s always there and that’s the big issue,” Webster said. “The big thing is the conversation and keeping it going.
“Everyone in the community has a role to play, even informally, by talking more about risk factors and what can be done outside the nine to five.”