(CONTENT WARNING: The following story contains distressing details.)
The 6-person jury at the inquest into the death of William Whitebear is providing several recommendations to the Ministry of Corrections, Policing, and Public Safety.
Whitebear died by suicide at the Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre in Novermber 2020. An inquest into his death has been taking place at the Saskatoon Inn this week.
After hearing the circumstances around Whitebear’s death, the inquest jury provided 5 recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.
The recommendations, all made to the Ministry of Corrections, Policing, and Public Safety include the following:
The jury recommends that, subject to privacy rights, any incoming inmate be given a drug test, so correctional centre staff can be made aware of any potential addiction or withdrawal issue. A forensic pathologist testified on Wednesday morning that Whitebear had a trace amount of metabolized cocaine in his system, something he believed could be a sign of possible withdrawal.
The jury recommends that staff at correctional centres have up to date information on inmates prescription history.
The jury recommends that the Saskatoon Provincial Correctional Centre hire a registered psychologist on staff. A psychologist currently visits the centre once a week on a contractural basis.
The jury recommends that all corrections officer receive official training in the 911 tool. The corrections officer who cut Whitebear down testifed he had difficulty using the tool when releasing Whitebear from the ligature.
The jury also recommends that incoming correctional centre staff receive mental health first aid training and for existing staff to be re-certified in the training as needed. May of the corrections officers who testified expressed a desire for more mental health training.
The recommendations will now be given to the Ministry of Corrections, Policing, and Public Safety and they will be able to implement any of the recommendations as they see fit.
Whitebear’s mother speaks on the recommendations
At the conclusion of the inquest, William Whitebear’s mother Willa Anthony spoke publicly on the inquest and the jury recommendations.
Anthony was satisfied with the recommendations that were given and couldn’t think of any to add.
“They are very in-depth, well-thought out recommendations that they came up with, so I am extremely satisfied,” she said.
Anthony also had high praise for the inquest process itself.
“To me this is well done and it helps us to have full closure because we never knew what happened.”
As for William Whitebear, Anthony described her son as a “kind”, “quiet”, and “reserved” person.
“I guess he has his personal reasons for walking the road that lead him to where he ended up, which I believe was addictions is what put him there.”