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Regina family calls for coroner’s inquest into 14-year-old’s death

Click to play video 'Dubois family calls for inquest' Dubois family calls for inquest
WATCH ABOVE: There are mounting calls for a coroner’s inquest into the death of a 14-year-old boy in Regina. Jules Knox reports on one family’s frustration with the justice system – Apr 26, 2017

Richelle Dubois found her 14-year-old son dead in a ravine in May 2015. Nearly two years later, she’s still looking for answers about his death.

Dubois pleaded for help from the board of police commissioners at a meeting on Wednesday morning. She wants to see a coroner’s inquest conducted into the matter.

“Please help put my faith back in the system that’s so wronged me and my family,” she said. “I will keep fighting for my son, for his voice, until I believe that justice is served.”

“I feel discriminated against. I feel alone up to now in my battle fighting a system that is supposed to work for me, not against me.”

According to the coroner’s original report, Haven drowned, but drug use was a contributing factor.

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Dubois had several concerns about the report. It misspelled Haven’s last name, she said. She also wanted to see a scratch on Haven’s face documented in the report and the cause of death changed from accidental to undetermined.

Dubois camped outside of the Regina Police Service in protest for three days in January 2016.

After a meeting between Dubois, the police and the coroner, it was agreed that four points in the report would be changed.

According to a letter sent to Dubois, the coroner agreed to remove the statements that marijuana was a contributing factor to her son’s death, that Haven had been found face down in the creek, that there was vomit found at the scene and that the RPS had received an anonymous letter indicating that Haven had used drugs and had a reaction to them.

“Coroner Sinnen agreed to remove these four items from her Report of Coroner only because they did not change the facts or findings in her report…” the letter read.

Dubois said she found her son lying on his left side in the fetal position, not facedown. She also said police never asked her for a statement.

“I feel like such an injustice was done to my son, and I feel like if I was a white family, this wouldn’t have happened,” Dubois said. “I believe the reports would have been accurate. I believe everything would have been looked into.”

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“I think we have a question here about how much confidence we have in the justice system if a family has to petition the police and that facts from the coroner’s report are being removed,” Michelle Stewart, a spokeswoman for Coalition for Civilian Oversight, said.

Stewart also voiced concerns over whether allegations that Haven was bullied and harassed were adequately investigated.

“The family experienced intimidation following his death, including graffiti that indicated people writing that they had killed Haven,” Stewart said. “So intimidation happened before and after his death. We have to ask if that was investigated.”

Witnesses have also indicated that Haven was being followed, Stewart said.

Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said he is still confident in the investigation that took place at the time.

“Every bit of information that we got, whether it be from witnesses, from independent statements that we got, or family members, formed part of the investigation,” he said. “We had our major crimes unit do a lot of work on this investigation.”

“I think sometimes it’s challenging when we’re looking at it from a neutral unbiased lens, an investigative lens, as opposed to being emotionally involved like a family is,” Bray added.

“Unfortunately investigation doesn’t always give us all the answers and unfortunately I think that’s where some of the frustration lies.”

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Dubois hopes that holding a coroner’s inquest will help find her some answers and prevent the same thing from happening in the future.

“How do we stop any other family from having to go through what I went through and what the Machiskinics are going through?” she asked.

The Machiskinic inquiry saw many similar trends and issues to the Dubois case, Stewart said.

“That jury came back and overturned the findings of the Coroner, and determined that that [Nadine Machiskinic’s] death was undetermined, and that’s what Richelle is asking for today,” Stewart said. “We have a 14-year-old child that died in this city. We need a coroner’s inquest to understand why.”

“The point of a coroner’s inquest is for us to get answers into the cause or matter of death, and more importantly, one might argue, is also to find out if we can prevent a death like this in the future,” she added.

Although the public complaints commission did review the investigation, Stewart still has concerns about a lack of civilian oversight.

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“It does not work for me at all that we have family members that have to constantly and consistently try to be in contact with Regina Police Service and then their next option is to go to a public complaints commission that is run through the Ministry of Justice,” she said. “We need independent civilian oversight so that families have somewhere to go to take their grief and their concerns.”

On Wednesday morning, the police chief and mayor both offered to help set up a meeting with the Minister of Justice.

Dubois said the offer made her hopeful. “But we’ll see how that goes because I’ve had promises over the phone, I’ve had promises here and there … so we’ll just wait and see.”