Aunt of woman in laundry chute death questions police work in other deaths
REGINA -- The aunt of a woman who died after falling down a hotel laundry chute says a report critical of the investigation raises questions about how police have looked into other sudden deaths.
Delores Stevenson also says she believes assumptions were made about her niece because she was an Indigenous woman.
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"I'm not going to sugar-coat anything because it was a very poor investigation," she said at a news conference on Monday.
"The police can stand by their word, saying that they did the best they could. But, really, did they do the best that they could? I mean we have high rates of missing and murdered Indigenous women within Canada."
Nadine Machiskinic was found severely injured in the laundry room of Regina's Delta hotel in 2015 and died in hospital.
Police said evidence did not point to someone being criminally responsible for her death.
The force recently released an RCMP review of the investigation, which was requested by Regina police.
The report, saying the probe did not meet professional standards, made 14 recommendations to improve how officers deal with similar cases.
An inquest heard it was more than 60 hours before police were called about Machiskinic's death and more than a year before they issued a public appeal for information about two men shown on surveillance video with someone who appeared to be Machiskinic.
The RCMP report says the initial delay presented police with "exceptional challenges" and resulted in a chain reaction that prevented them from securing scenes and from immediately interviewing witnesses.
Still, the report says, greater efforts should have been made to protect any potential scenes in the hotel from contamination. The report's authors also believe Machiskinic's cellphone was not immediately examined by police.
Officers also took four months to send for a toxicology report.
Regina police Chief Evan Bray said he stands behind the work done by investigators.
The service has a good track record, he said, and he doesn't believe issues raised in this case are indicative of the force's investigative work.
"Investigations are complex and they're not always perfect. They're not going to be always perfect and in some cases there's going to be room for improvement," Bray said Monday.
"That's the case here."
He acknowledged there were delays, but said race was not a factor.
Stevenson said the report validates her concerns that the investigation into her niece's death was flawed.
"The investigators were not doing their jobs," she said. "I've had to raise concerns over and over and over about how they were doing their jobs."
Police said many of the report's recommendations have been implemented and a new approach to case management is to be in place later this year.
Stevenson said the recommendations and changes are important, but they do not address concerns of other families who have had loved ones suddenly die.
The coroner initially ruled the cause of Machiskinic's death could not be determined, but later changed it to accidental.
A jury at a coroner's inquest last year changed the ruling back to undetermined. That finding prompted the police chief to ask RCMP to review the Regina force's investigation.