NWT coroner to hold inquest into death of man in custody

Cathy Menard, the territory's chief coroner.
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The territory’s chief coroner will hold an inquest into the death of a man who died in police custody in Fort Smith last year.

Wilfred Emile, 66, was in police custody in Fort Smith when he became medically distressed on Oct. 16.

He was brought to the Fort Smith health centre before being medevaced to Edmonton. Emile was later transported back to Fort Smith where he passed away on Oct. 26.

An external review conducted by the Medicine Hat Police Service found that police did not use force when handling Emile. It further concluded that his death was strictly a medical issue.

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Cathy Menard, the territory’s chief coroner, has also been investigating Emile’s death since last fall. She says an inquest into his death is required under territorial legislation.

“The inquest is mandatory under the legislation of the time when this death occurred,” she said.

The inquest into Emile’s death will begin on Sept. 27 in Fort Smith.

According to Menard, recent changes to the NWT Coroner’s Act will give her office discretion on when to call inquests in similar cases going forward.

While the coroner’s office is responsible for looking into every sudden or unexpected death, Menard would have the option to forego an inquest if she’s satisfied someone’s death was unpreventable.

“It will give the coroner the discretion to hold an inquest in cases where there are deaths of natural causes,” she said.

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