Indigenous artist needed hospital care, not jail, family tells inquest

The three sons of a renowned Indigenous artist wept at an inquest into their father’s death as they detailed the mental health issues he struggled with before he died at a Thunder Bay jail.

Moses Beaver, of Nibinamik First Nation, was 56-years-old when he was found unresponsive in a jail cell in February 2017 before being taken to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, where he was pronounced dead by suicide.

Shallum Beaver told the inquest his father’s mental health deteriorated after his wife died and that loss triggered trauma linked to time spent in a day school designed to assimilate Indigenous children into society.

He says his father had been hallucinating and hearing voices before he was arrested at a health centre where he had turned violent.

He says his father should have been taken to a hospital, not a jail, at that time.

Jurors at the inquest have heard Moses Beaver was put on suicide watch after arriving at the Thunder Bay jail, with someone supposed to check on him regularly, but the facility was overcrowded and short-staffed at the time.

The inquest is looking at the circumstances surrounding Beaver’s death and could make recommendations on how to provide mental health care both in Thunder Bay’s jails and across remote First Nations.


This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 4, 2023.



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