The leader of Manitoba’s Opposition has called for an inquest into the death of an Indigenous man who died during a 10-hour bus trip for a medical appointment.
Abraham Donkey of Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation was travelling from Thompson to Winnipeg for a follow-up appointment after a recent heart surgery.
The 58-year-old died on Oct. 3 along Highway 6.
“In a circumstance like this where he was on a bus – alone – and he had just received medical treatment, and was on his way to get further treatment, it certainly raises a lot of questions,” NDP Leader Wab Kinew said Wednesday.
Kinew said neither Manitoba’s Northern Patient Transport Program nor the federal government’s First Nations and Inuit Health Branch offered to pay for a flight and did not cover expenses for a family member to go with Donkey.
Kinew added he spoke with Donkey’s family and they requested a formal investigation with some accountability.
“It seems like a mistake was made in his care, maybe more than one mistake was made, and we need to get the answers to those questions,” Kinew said.
When asked in question period about Donkey’s death, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Indigenous Services Department is looking into the details.
The department said in an e-mail that it could not discuss details of individual cases, however, flights are approved based on recommendations from the nurses or doctors depending on the medical condition of the client. The normal mode of travel is by bus because it is cheaper.
Kinew acknowledged a provincial inquest does not have the jurisdiction to make recommendations to the federal government, but he said it would be a good first step.
He added that the provincial government changed a subsidy last spring that offered airfare to escorts of northern Manitoba patients who fly south for medical appointments.
“I think an inquest is a good first step, to have a formal investigative process, to be able to give the family some solace in their time of grief,” he said.
“But also importantly to make sure that we avoid having a situation like this happen again.”
The Chief Medical Examiner will decide whether there will be an inquest.