The grand chief of the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) is speaking out about the death of a 23-year-old woman in provincial custody.

Tatiana Custer died Jan. 3 at the Pine Grove Correction Centre in Prince Albert. Brian Hardlotte told MBC Radio News the tribal council was contacted by Custer’s family who raised concerns about transparency in regards to the lack of details provided about her death and the subsequent investigation. The PAGC grand chief said the family has not been provided much information.

“We need a system that’s built on our rights, where families aren’t left out in the cold, when they’re already going through the worst,” he said.

Hardlotte said Custer’s death is currently being investigated by the Prince Albert Police Service (PAPS). He explained when someone passes away in a correctional centre, where they are supposed to be kept safe, the death needs to be treated seriously.

“That’s very concerning and it’s my job to ask questions,” he said.

The lack of communication from authorities in this case is something which Hardlotte sees as being part of a larger issue, where people are not provided with the proper help when a loved one passes away while in custody.

“I feel that there’s is a severe break down in the justice (system) in the supports that are supposed to be there,” he said.

In Saskatchewan when someone dies while in custody a Coroner’s Inquest is held to establish the facts of what happened and at the conclusion, the Coroner’s jury is invited to make recommendations aimed at preventing similar deaths in the future. Hardlotte said the tribal council plans to monitor the inquest into Custer’s death when it is held.

The issues which Custer’s family has experienced in trying to get information from authorities about her death and the investigation into her death Hardlotte said are indicators that there is also work to be done, when it comes to implementing the Truth and Reconciliation (TRC) calls to action related to Indigenous people and the justice system.

“It’s a reminder that we’re still fighting you know for a fair, I guess I’ll say shake in the justice system,” he said.

(Top Photo: Prince Albert Grand Council Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte. Photo by Michael Joel-Hansen.)