Update on Heather Winterstein, age 24

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Update on Heather Winterstein, age 24

by pmnationtalk on January 18, 2022481 Views

Jan. 17, 2022 (Niagara Region, ON) – An Urgent Coroner’s Inquest must be called.

The family of Heather Winterstein aged 24, who passed away while in the care of Niagara Health System is not alone in their grief and suffering. ‘’There are too many Indigenous families in the same situation’’ says Bonne Brant, President of Niagara Chapter-Native Women Inc. “Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident.’ She says “an eerily similar story occurred when Brent Sky 32, an Ojibway man from Shoal Lake reserve, was transported 90 kilometres by ambulance to Lake of the Woods District Hospital in Kenora.” He was suffering with an extremely severe headache and painful vision. He was seen in the emergency room and sent on his way with 3 Ibuprofen pills, (readily available over the counter.). He travelled back home – alone – by bus. Speaking to his parents that evening, he still complained of the headache and pain in his eyes. The following morning his father found him dead. He died of a brain bleed. This was October 27, reported in a CBC article posted on December 13, 2021, “just 3 days after Heather’s Dec. 10 death.’’ Said Brant.

Brent Sky 32, Brian Sinclair 45, found dead in the Emergency dept. in Winnipeg and Joyce Echaquan 37 who passed while in care at hospital in Quebec last year, “all have something in common with Heather Winterstien’’ says Wendy Sturgeon, Executive Director, Niagara Chapter-Native Women Inc. ‘They are Indigenous. It’s a pattern, we know there are others and it cannot be ignored.’

Bonnie Brant, President goes further saying, ‘’These are examples of systemic racism, although thousands of km apart they have too much in common to be overlooked. Brent was 32; Heather was 24 – both in the prime of their

lives. Neither of these two were being seen for drug or alcohol related situations. In their cases, both were sent away without testing to determine the cause of their ailment.’’

Brent’s case is still in the hands of the Chief Coroner’s office. Brian Sinclair’s inquest took seven years to give an interim report, entitled “Ignored to Death” and found his condition was totally treatable if he had been tended to. October 1, 2021, following the first National Day of Reconciliation, the Coroner’s report on Joyce Echaquan 37, was released stating ‘that racism played a contributing factor in her death.’’

While we acknowledge that Niagara Health is conducting an Independent Investigation into this failure of care, the Niagara Chapter-Native Women Inc.’s Board of Directors respectfully request further investigation in Heather’s case, in the form of a full Coroner’s Inquest, as the family is requesting. This is in the hope that such catastrophes may not be suffered by Native families in the future.

We call for the Coroner’s Inquest to address the long-standing issues of discrimination against Indigenous people, particularly Indigenous Women and to fulfill the family’s wishes to ensure that this “never happens to another family”.

The Niagara Chapter-Native Women Inc. is founded on the collective goal to enhance, promote, and foster the health and wellness, social, economic, cultural and political well-being of First Nations and Métis and Inuit women and their families, within First Nation, Métis, Inuit and Canadian societies. We believe in becoming involved in the activities that affect our daily lives. The chapter is affiliated with Ontario Native Women’s Association.

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For additional information please contact:
Wendy Sturgeon
Executive Director
Tel.: 905 871 8770
Email: [email protected]

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