The Saskatchewan RCMP is requesting an independent external investigation following the death of a woman while in custody at the Sandy Bay RCMP detachment.
The RCMP confirmed on Tuesday that a 44-year-old woman was found unresponsive while being held at the Sandy Bay RCMP detachment at around 11:20 p.m. on Sunday.
She was pronounced dead on the scene by emergency medical services (EMS) several minutes past midnight on Monday morning. The Saskatchewan Coroners Service is involved in an investigation into the cause of death.
Gerald Morin organized a farewell ceremony outside the RCMP detachment in Sandy Bay on Tuesday evening to pay respects and say goodbye to a valued member of the community.
“Every time I saw her she would say ‘I love you uncle’ and she would give me a hug. So, that’s my way of expressing that I will miss her, the community is going to miss her, the family is for sure going to miss her,” Morin said.
“We need answers. Because there’s going to be a lot of questions arising from today. I see that there’s even police forensic personnel here already.”
The Saskatchewan RCMP said in a written statement that upon discovering the woman in an unresponsive state two Sandy Bay RCMP officers performed “lifesaving measures” and called the Sandy Bay Health Clinic EMS. The two officers reportedly assisted EMS after their arrival.
“I’m frustrated and hurt and saddened,” Morin said.
“I’m not here to finger point, but the last place you want someone to die is in police custody. Because when I walk into that detachment it specifically says, ‘to serve and protect.’ So, we have to have answers. This is very serious. I don’t want to hear about police arresting somebody, and they die in the cell.
“My main objective for this is just a peaceful demonstration to honor our sister. This is the second person in police custody or arrested that died in that jail cell.”
Morin noted that 39-year-old Adele Jennifer Morin was found deceased due to a drug and alcohol related overdose in her cell at the same detachment in October, 2014.
In 2016 a jury at the Creighton coroner’s inquest into Morin’s death recommended guards and RCMP be better trained to recognize alcohol and drug overdose symptoms.
It was further recommended that the RCMP not make any assumptions — and that if a person should appear unconscious to seek medical help right away.
While the cause of death in this most recent incident has not been confirmed, Morin said it raises questions about whether those recommendations are being followed.
“What were her conditions? Is there camera footage?” Morin asked. “If you ask you should be able to get it, right?”
He said the family doesn’t want to wait two years to know the answers to those questions.
“There has to be cooperation from that detachment in regard to the family requesting an investigation. I hope that it doesn’t prolong like the last one when it took two years before any information was relayed to the family,” Morin said.
“So, we believe that it’s in (the RCMP’s) best interest and also for the community members. The family needs to know exactly what occurred.”
Saskatchewan RCMP said the Moose Jaw Police Service has been asked to conduct an independent external investigation into the circumstances surrounding the in-custody death.
The Saskatchewan Ministry of Justice and Attorney General has been requested to appoint two independent investigation observers, including one of First Nation ancestry.
As this matter is the subject of an external investigation the Saskatchewan RCMP said no further information can be made available at this time.
Morin told the Prince Albert Daily Herald that the deceased woman is a member of the Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation and is dearly loved by her community. Out of respect for the family the Herald is not naming the deceased at this time.
When someone dies under these circumstances Morin said it affects everyone.
“We’re a community with a population of 1,200. We’re a small community,” Morin said.
“We know our neighbours and we keep our doors open. Family is family and community is based on family.”
This report was updated on July 6, 2021 to include comments from Gerald Morin