Leadership with the Kenora District Services Board and Northwest EMS say they’ve met with the community of Onigaming First Nation after the death of a young man last week, and investigations are continuing to determine why paramedics allegedly refused to save his life.
On September 15, Onigaming Chief Jeff Copenace alleges that when a young First Nations man went into medical distress and emergency responders were called around 10:30 a.m., an ambulance with two Northwest EMS paramedics parked at the edge of the community and refused to help with the situation.
Despite life-saving efforts from community and family members, the young man passed away. Chief Copenace alleges that racism was a factor behind the incident, as has Kiiwetinoong MPP Sol Mamakwa.
Information on the death was not made available by the OPP or Treaty Three Police Service, and the KDSB did not provide further information on paramedic safety practices.
Now, Chief Administrative Officer with the KDSB, Henry Wall, explains that staff were waiting for police to arrive to assist with the situation, and they will not be providing any further details at this time.
“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with family members and the community of Onigaming. The death of this young man is a tragic and devastating loss. We want to be respectful to those grieving and affected by this situation and will be providing no further comment on the event's details,” he says.
Wall adds he was invited to the Onigaming community on September 19 to meet with leadership, which he says highlighted situations where the community needs more resources and service providers need to do better.
“Our conversation was difficult, honest, and respectful. I have committed to the community that through the investigation, they will get answers. Our conversation also highlighted that Canada cannot continue to ignore the community’s plea for help and support.”
Wall stresses that staff are working in full cooperation with the Ministry of Health’s investigation into the situation, and once the review has been completed, its findings will be provided to Onigaming members immediately. Although, he notes it may take several weeks to wrap up.
Wall finishes by thanking paramedics across the region for their work every day.
“Paramedics in our region put their lives on the line daily and give their all every day they go to work. They are asked to respond to a range of challenging, emergent situations, and assessing risk is a fundamental piece for our paramedics to ensure that they are safe while doing their work.”