An inquest into the death of Jocelyn Nynah Marsha George is set to begin June 21, scheduled for at least five days, with the possibility of extending into the following week.
The 18-year-old Hesquiaht/Ahousaht woman died of heart failure after spending a night in custody at the Port Alberni RCMP detachment in the summer of 2016.
Under the Coroners Act, inquests are mandatory for any deaths that occur while someone is detained by or in the custody of a police officer.
“An inquest is a formal process that allows for public presentation of evidence relating to a death,” the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General said in a release. “Presiding coroner Margaret Janzen and a jury will hear evidence from witnesses under oath to determine the facts surrounding this death.”
The jury will confirm the identity of George, along with how, where, when and by what means she died.
According to the Independent Investigations Office of British Columbia’s findings released Jan. 12, 2018, there were no grounds to consider charges against any of the involved officers.
In a statement from 2018, the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council (NTC) said they are deeply disappointed by the findings and called for a review of police misconduct towards Indigenous people.
“Any time our Indigenous people are harmed or killed by RCMP or police we always have to remember that systemic racism is at play” said Mariah Charleson, NTC vice-president. “The inquest is to make recommendations so that no one ever has to suffer that same fate. My hope is that the inquest is successful in doing that.”
Charleson said she also hopes the recommendations made in the inquest are taken seriously and followed up with an immediate action plan.
The inquest was originally scheduled to start on July 6, 2020, but was postponed due to COVID-19.
It will be held at Capitol Theatre and is open to the public. Seating will be limited, however livestreaming will also be available.
“The family, I’m sure, has many unanswered questions,” said Charleson. “[This will] provide some type of closure in the sense of the family being able to move forward in a good way, knowing exactly what happened to their daughter or their relative.”