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Canada Inquest into Indigenous inmate’s death in Saskatoon to proceed after delays

Inmates say that Kinew James, who died of an apparent heart attack, was denied timely medical assistance.

A public inquest into the death of an inmate at the Saskatoon Regional Psychiatric Centre is to go ahead next month after a lengthy delay.

An examination of what happened to Kinew James was to have been held last April, but was postponed indefinitely when new documents surfaced.

James, who was 35, died in her cell in January 2013 after an apparent heart attack.

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Inmates have alleged that she was denied timely medical assistance.

One report said James, who was diabetic, activated the emergency call alarm in her cell and told corrections staff that she was feeling sick and lethargic the night she died.

James was serving an aggregate sentence of 15 years for manslaughter, assault, uttering threats and other charges – many of which happened after she was first sent to jail.

The Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies has said it hopes the inquest will lead to better care for Indigenous women with mental-health issues who are serving time in prison.

Last April, on the first day of the inquest, lawyers for the association and James's mother argued that disclosure documents provided by the Corrections Service of Canada – which covered the year leading up to James's death – weren't enough.

They presented a package made up largely of Corrections Service documents the society obtained while fighting for James's release in 2011. Containing some 8,000 files, some of the documents dated back as far as 1998.

Association lawyer Gillian Gough said it was important to look at how various factors in James's incarceration may have contributed to her death.

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Gough pointed out that James was transferred between facilities some 30 times and had been in and out of the Saskatoon centre 13 times over the years.

Inquest coroner Timothy Hawryluk said he wasn't comfortable ruling on a request to expand the scope of the inquest until he'd had time to review the new documents. He postponed the proceedings indefinitely.

The rescheduled inquest is to be held May 8-12 and May 15-19 in Saskatoon Court of Queen's Bench.

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