Silverfox family appeal inquest decision

On Friday afternoon, more than 150 protestors walked down Fourth Avenue, following in the footsteps of Raymond Silverfox. A coroner’s inquest last month revealed the shocking treatment Silverfox received, being mocked and laughed at, before he died in police custody.

On Friday afternoon, more than 150 protestors walked down Fourth Avenue, following in the footsteps of Raymond Silverfox.

A coroner’s inquest last month revealed the shocking treatment Silverfox received, being mocked and laughed at, before he died in police custody.

The inquest found he died of natural causes.

The Silverfox family has requested a judicial review of that decision and is requesting that a public inquiry be held.

The protest began with prayers and speeches in front of the Salvation Army shelter, where Silverfox was picked up by police on December 2, 2008.

More than 13 hours later, he was discovered unconscious on the floor of a vomit-covered cell.

“Everything has happened because people were left on their own to fend for themselves,” said Assembly of First Nations vice-chief Eric Morris.

“Now this has taken one of our people’s lives.”

Those responsible for Silverfox’s death need to be held accountable, said Morris.

“But we’re accountable to make sure that these things don’t happen anymore,” he said.

“We need to show them that we’re willing to stand together, to let them know we can watch out for one another.”

The protest followed Silverfox’s daughter Deanna Lee Charlie and other family members as they made the short walk from the shelter to the Whitehorse RCMP station.

Protesters drummed and sang, but no officers came out of the building to address the crowd.

“I’m happy so many people came out. There’s a lot of support here,” said Charlie.

“I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what we’re going through.”

Her father would be proud to see so many people coming together on his behalf, said Charlie.

“I just wish he were here to see it.”

Last Thursday, Charlie and the rest of Silverfox’s family filed an appeal against the coroner’s inquest.

The coroner’s charge to the jury was slanted to a verdict of natural causes, according to the family’s petition.

“It went beyond instruction and amounted to a virtual direction that left the jurors no option.”

The charge appeared to show bias, as did the coroner’s conduct of the inquest.

“The coroner’s conduct of the inquest breached the rules of natural justice,” the family said in the petition.

The petition listed a number of other problems with last month’s proceedings.

Forensic pathologist Dr. Charles Lee found Silverfox’s cause of death to be sepsis and acute pneumonia.

However, this finding conflicts with evidence given by the physicians who worked on Silverfox just prior to his death.

An x-ray of his lungs showed no sign of pneumonia.

Also, a timeline and transcript of the cellblock video, which was agreed to by all the lawyers involved, was amended just before it was entered into evidence.

This amended document was prepared by the coroner’s lawyer without input from the Silverfox family lawyer.

The family was given a vetted copy of the transcript of the cellblock audio. Their request for an unvetted copy was denied.

The coroner’s counsel, while examining witnesses, justified the conduct of police and guards with questions about “black humour.”

She also made the comment that “the cellblock area is not your grandmother’s living room.”

The coroner also allowed two important witnesses to give evidence by phone rather then in person, without informing the family’s lawyer.

The family is asking that the proceeding be reviewed and the inquest verdict be quashed.

They would also like to prohibit the coroner from holding a new inquest, preferring that a public inquiry be held to find the truth behind Silverfox’s death.

Contact Chris Oke at chriso@yukon-news.com