Dino Kwandibens dragged into TBPS Jail Booking Room, Aug. 2, 2014 (Coroner’s Motion Record, Tab 3A, Time Stamp 10m15s)

Don Mamakwa (L) and Roland McKay (R)

Don Mamakwa (L) and Roland McKay (R)

On January 14, 2021, Asha James and Julian Falconer appeared before the Inquest into the deaths of Don Mamakwa (Kasabonika Lake First Nation) and Roland McKay (Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug First Nation), on behalf of the families of Don and Roland. Both Don and Roland died in police custody after being arrested and brought to the Thunder Bay Police Service (TBPS) jail in a state of apparent intoxication and in medical distress – Don passed away in 2014, and Roland in 2017.

The striking similarities in their deaths and mistreatment have led the presiding coroner to proceed jointly with both inquests.

The Inquest will explicitly address the issue of systemic racism within the TBPS, representing an important moment for the families, and for Indigenous peoples across Ontario. For the first time, an Ontario Inquest will directly ask the question that communities have long asked:

“How racism, bias and stereotyping may have been a factor” in the treatment of Indigenous persons by TBPS officers and Thunder Bay paramedics.

Although the Inquest is directly addressed at patterns of racism at TBPS, the police service is seeking to oppose evidence that sheds light on those patterns.

At the January 14, 2021 hearing, TBPS argued that the Inquest should exclude video evidence depicting the mistreatment of an Indigenous individual who was brought, in a state of severe intoxication, into the same jail as Don Mamakwa, on the same night he died – August 2, 2014. This video depicts severe mistreatment of this individual, Mr. Dino Kwandibens, including discriminatory language, refusal to provide medical treatment, and officers dragging his body down a prison hallway. These incidents occurred merely two minutes after Don Mamakwa was subjected to similar mistreatment at the same jail, in the same room, and by at least one of the same officers.

Indigenous communities have long experienced the impacts of TBPS policing, a reality acknowledged in two landmark reports issued in 2018. The OIPRD’s Broken Trust found that “systemic racism exists in the Thunder Bay Police Service at an institutional level.” Similarly, Senator Murray Sinclair concluded that the TBPS Board’s leadership was so dysfunctional, the only option was to disband it and appoint an Administrator (which occurred in 2018). In Sen. Sinclair’s words: “The Board has failed to recognize and address the clear and indisputable pattern of violence and systemic racism against Indigenous people in Thunder Bay.”

UPDATED: For the Presiding Coroner’s Decision (March 16, 2022) confirming this video will form part of the inquest, click here

News Coverage:

“Thunder Bay police try to exclude footage of officers dragging an Indigenous man from inquest evidence” (Jan. 14, 2021)

“Motion to exclude video of police dragging Whitesand First Nation man from upcoming inquest concludes” (Jan. 14, 2021)  

Video showing officers dragging Indigenous man should be admitted in inquest, NAN chiefs say (Jan. 15, 2021)

Publicly filed materials in this hearing can be found here:

Families Submissions, Slide Deck (Jan. 14, 2021) can be found here:

Publicly filed videos depicting the treatment of Mr. Kwandibens can be found here:

Mamakwa-McKay Inquest: TBPS Jail Booking Area Video (Aug. 2, 2014), Enhanced Pt. 1

Mamakwa-McKay Inquest: TBPS Jail Booking Area Video (Aug. 2, 2014), Enhanced Pt. 2

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