Skip to content

Quesnel coroner’s inquest: In-custody medical incidents need on-call help

Jury recommends Indigenous position for distrustful injured arrest victims
Quesnel’s Provincial Government Building is where the coroner’s inquest was held examining the death of Nadine Solonas. (Black Press file photo)

The untimely death of Nadine Marcy Solonas has led to a recommendation for improvement.

A coroner’s inquest jury has concluded that looking after the medical needs of someone who is under arrest or in some way involved with the police should not be left to chance.

Delays in getting medical attention for Solonas when she was under arrest was deemed to be a likely factor in why she died on Oct. 2, 2017 at 8:24 a.m. in Vancouver General Hospital.

The inquest’s jury ruled that the cause of death was blunt force head injury inflicted by a person, based on the conclusions of the experts who examined her.

Solonas had been the victim of multiple assaults in her final days, the last of which brought police to intervene at the hotel room in which she lived in Quesnel.

When police arrived, they discovered Solonas was with longtime boyfriend, Richard Gregorig. Subsequently, Nathan Lynn Joseph Doucette and Dawn Georgette Gunanoot were charged and pleaded guilty to assaulting the couple.

“That Ms. Solonas died as a result of violence is not in dispute,” said madam justice MacNaughton during reasons for judgement in the Gunanoot and Doucette trial. “The challenges facing the Crown in this case were to determine, and ultimately to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, the extent of Ms. Gunanoot’s and Mr. Doucette’s criminal responsibility in her death. Tragically, for her family and her community, the circumstances which led to Ms. Solonas’ head injury or injuries, and who was responsible for them, will never be known to the standard of proof required in criminal proceedings.”

When police arrived at the scene of the assaults, they were compelled to also arrest the injured Solonas, because of an active court order forbidding her to be with Gregorig.

Twenty-six witnesses gave testimony at the inquest that ran from May 23-May 30 at the Quesnel Courthouse before presiding coroner Susan Barth.

When Solonas was in the company of police and medical personnel after being taken into custody, she resisted some of the suggestions for attention. But also at question was if, given her mental state at the time, Solonas ought to have had better counselling on the medical concerns.

This disconnection was also spoken of by justice MacNaughton in the Gunanoot and Doucette judgement. In it she said “it is clear that the legacies of colonialism, and its impacts, are implicated in (Solonas’s) death. We grieve the loss of her life and the lives of the many other Indigenous women who our systems have continually failed to protect.”

A coroner’s inquest jury does not determine guilt or fault. The mandate of a coroner’s inquest is, in summary, to officially determine a cause of death and, if necessary or possible, to make recommendations to prevent future deaths of similar nature.

The Quesnel jury in the matter of Nadine Marcy Solonas unanimously agreed to the determined circumstances surrounding Solonas’s death, and made a single recommendation.directed to police administration. The recommendation was:

“Create an Indigenous support position that is on-call 24-7 for when an Indigenous person has been taken into custody. This supportive role would assist the person in custody if they were refusing medical treatment or generally feeling untrusting of emergency responders and not cooperating. This would ensure the individual has a non-uniformed civilian employee to build a connection with, and support a more culturally safe environment, when required.”

Coroner Susan Barth accepted the recommendation on behalf of the people of B.C. and discharged the jury.

“This process is dependent on your participation and I want to thank you for your time and attention in performing this very important service to your community,” she said.