The Canadian Union of Public Employees is calling for further support from the federal government following a death in Onigaming First Nation. 

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.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic death. Currently, there is a thorough and vital investigation into the circumstances. CUPE 5911 is cooperating fully with this important investigation while supporting our frontline paramedics through this difficult time," says Derek Hamilton, president of CUPE 5911, and Nicole Runge, vice president, two Indigenous leaders of the union that represents paramedics in Kenora District.

Chief Administrative Officer with the KDSB, Henry Wall, explained that staff was waiting for police to arrive to assist with the situation. Wall stresses that staff is 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. 

"We also continue to be mindful of the systemic racism and historical impacts of residential schools on Indigenous communities and families, further worsened by decades of underfunding and poor access to health care and social programs," adds Hamilton and Runge. 

Wall 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.

CUPE is now calling on all levels of government for immediate investment in underserved Northern communities to help address poverty, homelessness and addictions issues that often lead to crisis situations.

"CUPE 5911 is committed to working with Indigenous leaders as part of a catalyst for change."