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Coroner's inquest to be held next month into 2020 death of Kinngait, Nunavut, man shot by police

A file photo of Kinngait, Nunavut, which sits near the southern tip of Baffin Island. An inquest into Attachie Ashoona's 2020 death will be held in the town from Feb. 5 to 9, 2024. (Travis Burke/CBC - image credit)
A file photo of Kinngait, Nunavut, which sits near the southern tip of Baffin Island. An inquest into Attachie Ashoona's 2020 death will be held in the town from Feb. 5 to 9, 2024. (Travis Burke/CBC - image credit)

Nearly four years after a police-involved shooting that led to the death of a man in Kinngait, Nunavut, the territory's chief coroner is set to begin an inquest next month.

Attachie Ashoona died on February 26, 2020, after "an RCMP involved shooting," according to a statement from the office of the chief coroner on Wednesday.

The inquest, which will explore the circumstances of Ashoona's death and consider recommendations to prevent similar incidents in the future, will take place at the Kinngait Community Hall from Feb. 5 to 9. It will be led by the coroner's counsel, Sheldon Toner, and will be overseen by Chief Coroner Khen Sagadraca.

Nunavut RCMP have said that Ashoona was wielding a knife and threatened to kill them after they came to his house to investigate reports of a woman screaming and being dragged, and of another man being beaten. They said they warned Ashoona to drop the knife but he advanced on one officer, who was cornered, and made stabbing motions. That's when police say they shot him.

The day after the incident, two police officers from Ottawa were sent to Kinngait to investigate.

On Aug. 20, 2020, more than half a year after the incident, the police investigation into the matter concluded the officer involved should not be criminally charged.

The Ottawa Police Service conducted the investigation, having sent two of its homicide investigators to Kinngait. It is standard procedure for the territory to contract Ottawa police to conduct independent, external reviews of the Nunavut RCMP for cases involving potential police wrongdoing.

The investigation concluded that "the RCMP officer's use of lethal force did not exceed the use of force necessary to control the situation" based on the Criminal Code, according to a news release about the investigation.

Inquest mandatory

A coroner's inquest is legally mandatory when police kill a Nunavut resident and it offers a chance to hear from other local witnesses about the circumstances around the death.

In 2020, the Nunavut coroner's office told CBC it hoped to conduct the inquest into Ashoona's death in 2021.

The coroner's office is inviting anyone who wants to participate or make a presentation at next month's inquest to contact the office at (867) 975-6562.