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Ontario First Nations group searches for answers in teen deaths

An Ontario First Nations group has asked the province's chief coroner for a joint inquest into the deaths of seven aboriginal teens who left their reserves to get an education.

The Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) says all seven youths died under similar circumstances since 2000 while attending school in Thunder Bay, Ont., and a broad inquest could help bring closure to their families.

NAN lawyer Julian Falconer says a lack of answers has made the community deeply suspicious of the causes of the deaths and many families are now afraid to send their children away to school.

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Mr. Falconer says all First Nations should be entitled to educate their youth in high schools based in their own communities.

An inquest is already underway into the 2007 death of 15-year-old Reggie Bushie, whose body was recovered from the McIntyre River in Thunder Bay. The inquest is also meant to consider the deaths of four other NAN youth and make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths.

Since it was called, two more NAN youth died under similar circumstances, and in September last year the coroner ruled that the proceedings could not move forward because of a lack of aboriginal representation on jury rolls.

A hearing on a new jury roll has now been postponed to allow the coroner to consider NAN's latest request on expanding the original inquest.

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