On Sept. 19, 2008, Brian Sinclair went to a community health centre in Winnipeg. He was in pain and needed help with his catheter bag. A doctor examined him and decided he needed to visit the Health Sciences Centre emergency department. Sinclair, a 45-year-old double amputee, was in the early stages of a bladder infection that might lead to sepsis if untreated, the doctor said, and the centre did not have the capabilities to care for him.
She wrote a letter for the emergency room explaining the situation, folded it into an envelope, and handed it to Sinclair, who tucked it into his pocket. She told him she would arrange a ride for him because he seemed stable and cognizant, and that he would need to give the letter to whoever was at the front desk of the ER that day so he could be seen efficiently.
“Okay, doc,” Sinclair said. He put the note in his pocket. Brian Sinclair (top right in wheelchair) is shown in a screengrab from surveillance footage of his time at the Winnipeg Health Sciences Centre in September, 2008. The Canadian Press The next 34 hours unfold in security footage and witness testimony.
There was the man at hour 10 who chatted with Sinclair: “I asked him how long he had been sitting there and he said, ‘Quite a while.’” The man testified he told a nurse Sinclair had been waiting a long time only to be told that sicker patients were being seen first.
There was the health care aide who saw Sinclair that first night, and then the second, and “had a feeling something wasn’t right.” She testified that she told a nurse that Sinclair had waited more than 24 hours, only to have the nurse shrug it off. And then, she testified, when she told a security guard outside on his break, she said “his response was, ‘I think he’s here to watch TV.’”
Another couple, there with their son, also raised concerns with security after Sinclair started to throw up. Sinclair was given a bowl but no medical staff came to treat him.
WATCH: Ten years after Brian Sinclair’s death And then there was the nurse, working a weekend shift, who was asked to check on Sinclair the morning he died but who said it didn’t seem urgent so he did paperwork first. When he finally did check, he testified, “there wasn’t any commotion.” By the time Sinclair was discovered minutes later, rigor mortis had begun to set in. His eyes were black and his face was white. “Honestly, they thought he was just a street person sleeping it off, they thought he was just another drunken Indian coming in to pass out,” Sinclair’s cousin says.
“It’s always hidden racism .” Sinclair — an Indigenous man — was pronounced dead on 12:51 a.m. on Sept. 21, 2008.
Brian Sinclair was one of nine children. His mother was Veronique Goosehead, a residential school survivor, and his father was Alfred Sinclair, a fisher and logger of mixed First Nations and European descent. He grew up northeast of Winnipeg near Sagkeeng First Nation and then, when he was a little older, in Winnipeg.
His older sister remembers him as a kind and helpful little boy, a smart student. But his cousin, Robert Sinclair, remembers him as a fellow middle child, one he never fought with, even though childhood battles were common among so many mischievous boys. It was Sinclair’s doggedness that stood out, Robert says.
In fact, Robert’s circle of childhood friends, which didn’t include his younger siblings, very occasionally included Sinclair because he dedicated himself to finding ways to hang out […]
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