Azraya Kokopenace, 14, was found dead in Kenora in April 2016, two days after she walked away from Lake of the Woods Hospital. Her family continues to call for an inquest. (Marlin Kokopenace/Facebook) The family of a teen from Grassy Narrows First Nation still has questions about the night she died as they continue to push for an inquest into her death, according to their lawyer.
That comes after the release of a report by Ontario’s chief coroner into the deaths of 12 young people who died between 2014 and 2017 while in the custody of the province’s child welfare system. The death of Azraya Kokopenace was one of the cases that made up the review.
And while Glenn Stuart, Kokopenace’s family’s lawyer, said the panel clearly put a lot of work into the report and came up with good recommendations, the girl’s family is still looking for answers to questions about how she was able to walk away from the Lake Of the Woods District Hospital after being taken there by police in April 2016.
"Azraya’s death stemmed from an intersection of agencies failing her," Stuart told CBC News. "Somehow, it was by virtue of her falling in the gaps of those different services that led to the situation that ultimately led to her death."
"[We’re] talking about how those intersected because that’s not an unusual situation, regrettably, for a youth to find themselves in, in a community such as Azraya’s."
She was last seen leaving the hospital shortly before 11:30 p.m. on April 15, according to the OPP. She was found dead two days later in a forested area nearby.
The report by the chief coroner’s expert panel stated that Kokopenace was brought to hospital by police. Staff from the agency home in Kenora where she was staying then came to the hospital, at which point officers reportedly left. Kokopenace, herself, then left "a short time later" and a search was launched.
The report doesn’t provide details on how or why Kokopenace was able to leave, something Stuart said needs to be addressed.
"I don’t think the family is in agreement with that conclusion but if that was the case, then someone needs to answer how could she have run out of the hospital?" he said.
"Either someone was not with her, or someone who was with her wasn’t doing what they were there to do, or there were constraints on that person that need to be talked about whether those were appropriate constraints," Stuart continued. "So I think there is a question about the way it’s described in the report." ‘Her situation raised broader issues’
The best way to try and uncover those answers, Stuart said, is through an inquest, which the family has been seeking since Kokopenace died. He added that the process is also public, unlike the drafting of the panel’s report.
"The panel’s recommendations, although very helpful, are quite focused on, as was the intention, on the role of Children’s Aid Societies in dealing with youth in care," he said. "But it’s always been the view of Azraya’s family that her situation raised broader issues and those issues are not addressed by the panel."
When the expert panel was struck, chief coroner Dirk Huyer said its report may recommend inquests into any of the 12 deaths the panelists reviewed. Tuesday’s document did not address whether or not to hold inquests.
Huyer told CBC News he still hasn’t made a decision about whether to call one into Kokopenace’s death; he was also non-committal about a specific timeline to when that decision could happen. Dr. Dirk Huyer, is Ontario’s chief coroner. (Oliver Walters/CBC) "I send the report […]
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