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Yet Another Indigenous Death in Thunder Bay

Updated: Jun 22

BY: Tehreem Chohan

27-year-old Kevin Mamakwa was found dead in Thunder Bay District Jail in June this year. It was ruled as a ‘suicide’ but it’s not confirmed on whether or not that was what happened. His death is now being investigated by both the ministry and police to understand what actually happened and his family wants answers. Kevin is now the ninth person to die in the jail since 2002, seven of them being Indigenous themselves. Now his cousin; Grand Chief Alvin Fiddler wants the prison closed forever because of the history of Indigenous peoples dying in that prison. Fiddler went to see it himself and saw overfilled cells, consisting of almost 4 and many inmates scared and confused about what will happen to them. Another person outraged when hearing the news of Kevin’s death is his uncle; MPP Sol Mamakwa, who sees the jail as completely inhumane and recalling that most of the prisoners were either mentally ill, addicts or thrown in there for no coherent reason. Thunder Bay’s jail is Ontario’s second-most overcrowded prison going over the 85% capacity to 100% and 75% of the ones jailed are in fact, Indigenous peoples. A great percentage have called for a new jail or even one that is short-term so that it can be at least safe for them. The Liberal Party started the process of a new institution in 2017 in response but construction began again in 2019 from Ford’s government after multiple protests for a better facility. Ontario Ministry of the Solicitor General pledged a $500 million pledge to fix detention centers but there’s nothing sure that it would fund the development of Thunder Bay’s new correctional facility. Thunder Bay is known for its extreme racism towards Indigenous peoples and the murders that happen on what seems like a daily basis. Especially the seven Indigenous teens murdered from a span of 10 years from 2000 and 2011 while going to high school there. Kevin Mamakwa’s death is just another reminder of how much Thunder Bay has to change and fix their ways until it’s too late for them to fix their reputation and to always be seen as a place where Indigenous peoples get killed without any casualties or punishments. 

*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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