Inquest into death of Marlene Bear slated to begin in Creighton Aug. 21

Tribute Archive photo. Marlene Bear, pictured, was found unresponsive in a cell in Sandy Bay RCMP Detachment on July 5, 2021. An inquest is scheduled for Aug. 21.

An inquest into the death of Marlene Bear, 44, is slated to begin Monday, Aug. 21 in the Creighton Court House beginning at 10 a.m., according to a Ministry of Justice and Attorney General news release dated July 21, 2023.

Bear was found unresponsive in a cell in Sandy Bay RCMP Detachment on July 5, 2021. Staff reportedly responded, and lifesaving attempts made but efforts to save Bear were unsuccessful, according to the news release.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General outlined the Inquest process in an interview with the Northern Advocate.

An inquest is mandatory when a person dies in police or corrections custody.

“once the investigations are done, there’s usually , in most cases, a police oversight is done, if somebody dies in police custody.”

A normal inquest may last between three and five days, which is common. The Inquest is not held to find fault. “There’d be no charges. There’s the reason for the Inquest; it’s not to find fault and it’s not to find criminality. They’re [there] to hear the facts on what led up to the decedents death and then, to hopefully, provide some recommendations that would prevent a similar death from occurring in the future.”

Investigations and reports are done before the case goes to the Coroner’s Service.

The Coroner’s Service also investigates the death in preparation to bring the facts forward at an Inquest. They also receive all the other reports involved.

The family may have a lawyer representing them, or they may represent themselves. In either case they receive disclosure ahead of time.

“Some families are entitled under the Act to have representation. It’s calla Standing. They don’t need to have a lawyer, but they can have a Standing themselves which would then allow them to ask questions of the witnesses. This is very important because it allows the family member present to ensure that any concerns that they have are brought forward at the inquest.”

Any witnesses “that were close to the care of the person, the forensic pathologist that does the autopsy will be called to give the cause of death. Other witnesses that the Inquest Counsel deems will make sure evidence is brought forward.

The Inquest Counsel acts in a capacity similar to a prosecutor in a trial setting. The “An Inquest Counsel leads all the evidence and brings up all the witnesses and brings all the evidence forward.”

There are lawyers trained to run an Inquest. One of these people would be appointed as the Inquest Coroner to preside over the Inquest. Tim Hawryluk, K.C. will be the Inquest Coroner for the Inquest.

There will also be six jurors “that would listen to the evidence and then they would base their recommendations on the evidence that they hear.”

The family is also provided with a Family Liaison Consultant. “That Family Liaison Consultant contacts the family ahead of the Inquest, works with the family providing any support that we can. Information leading up to the inquest [and] they actually sit with the family all through the Inquest, so anything that that family needs, she’s there to assist the family.”

While it is not a legal process, recommendations often come out of the Inquest process. The recommendations go to the Coroner’s Service. They also go to the agency involved. For example, if the death related to traffic lights at a certain intersection, the recommendations would go to that municipality. If the death occurred in a federal penitentiary, the recommendations would go to the penitentiary. Perhaps the health authority was involved; the recommendations would go to the health authority.

The recommendations, and any response from the agency are uploaded to the Coroner’s Service website for the public.

“We try to make this really open to the public so they can find out about the Inquest, attend the inquest if they want to. They can certainly search things out on our website.

An Inquest is open to the public to attend.