Lawyer for Indigenous man who died in N.L. jail renews calls for public inquiry

The lawyer representing the family of a man who died in a provincial jail in St. John’s is renewing his calls for a public inquiry.

Bob Buckingham says after a year of demonstrations and discussions highlighting systemic racism in Canada’s justice system, an independent public inquiry into the circumstances of Jonathan Henoche’s death is all the more urgent.

Henoche, an Indigenous man from Labrador, died Nov. 6, 2019 in Her Majesty’s Penitentiary following a reported altercation with corrections officers.

Shortly after, police announced his death was being investigated as a homicide.

In an interview on the anniversary of Henoche’s death Friday, Buckingham said he’d like an inquiry to examine what role racism played in the death and whether corrections officers have adequate training to deal with inmates who have complex mental health issues.

In an emailed statement Monday, the provincial Justice Department says there are no plans for an inquiry.

Buckingham says he’s disappointed but not surprised by the response.

A spokesman for the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said the investigation into Henoche’s death is ongoing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 9, 2020.

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