REGINA – After about five hours of deliberations, the jury in the Lee Bonneau inquest delivered their findings Friday into the young boy’s death.
Just over a year and a half ago, the six-year-old was found badly beaten on the Kahkewistahaw First Nation, and the person responsible for his death was only a child himself.
The point of the proceedings wasn’t to place guilt or point blame, but rather to find out how a six-year-old in foster care died at the hands of a 10-year-old with a troubled childhood, and ultimately stop that from happening again.
After eight days of testimony, 27 witnesses and 23 exhibits, the jury delivered 19 recommendations.
The inquest’s coroner, Alma Wiebe, told reporters that the jury’s findings showed there were two victims involved.
“It’s heartbreaking for anyone to hear that kind of evidence. There were a lot of tears in the courtroom,” she added. “I’m not surprised. It’s very hard.”
Over the last two weeks court heard difficult, and at times graphic, details about the last moments of Bonneau’s life, emotional testimony from both child’s parents, and how efforts from a tangled web of agencies meant to protect the pair proved futile.
Sheri Woods is the counsel for the 10-year-old boy referenced in the inquest as ‘LT’, and said she was impressed with the jury’s recommendations.
“The jury really considered that the system failed two families and two kids in this situation, and the recommendations really reflected that,” said Woods.
The jury’s recommendations included that the Yorkton Tribal Council (YTC), who’s responsible for children in care on Saskatchewan reserves, develop an organized filing system.
They suggested that the YTC and the Ministry of Social Services both reevaluate protocols and mandatory training for foster parents.
Recommendations also included there be better access to specialized mental health professionals, and facilities for children under the age of 12 in rural areas.
The jury also added that there should be timely file sharing between the RCMP and all other parties involved in a child’s care.
Joanne Moser represents the YTC and told reporters the inquest will help expedite the efforts they are already making within the agency.
“There are so many children that have special needs and complex care and clearly it’s been difficult, so that specifically has been very important.”
Tammy Kirkland, the assistant deputy minister for child and family programs, also told reporters that the inquest’s recommendations will be vitally important for reviewing and improving their processes.
“We’re in a much better place today to respond to the needs of children and family because of accountability measures like this,” she added