Photo courtesy of SCAR Regina

An advocacy group is calling on better access to traditional spiritual assistance for First Nations inmates.

Bob Hughes, president of the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism, is drawing into question the death of Waylon Starr, who died at the Regina Correctional Centre in August.

Hughes says in his talks with other inmates, he was informed Starr repeatedly asked to smudge and speak with an elder before he took his own life in his cell.

“I understand from these conversations, that people are often asking for spiritual assistance, and it is often delayed or denied, which causes serious problems,” said Hughes. “If we do see these things as important, then it should be provided.”

The inmates say they received the opportunity to smudge and speak with an elder after Starr’s death.

Hughes is also calling into question the response to Starr’s death. He says other inmates felt the response was not urgent enough, given what he says was the urgency of the situation.

“They did not feel a real organized effort to provide care to this young man,” said Hughes.

SCAR is also calling for an external review of the matter, and is asking for the entrance and exit of inmates cells be video monitored.

In a statement from the Ministry of Justice, they say they take any death at a correctional facility very seriously and are investigating accordingly.

They say they are reviewing the matter internally, along with investigations from the RCMP and Office of the Chief Coroner.

The policy of the ministry says that inmates in correctional facilities have access to spiritual care through elders and chaplains that are contracted to work in the facilities.