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Coroner’s inquest begins for Kugluktuk man, 22, who died in police custody

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Jennifer Maniyogena was working as a janitor at the health centre in her remote Arctic community of Kugluktuk, Nunavut, on the afternoon of September 19, 2018. 

Around 2 p.m. she says there was a flurry of activity as an unconscious man was rushed into one of the rooms with health workers struggling to revive him. 

A few minutes later she would learn that man was her 22 year-old son, Austin Maniyogena.

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By the end of the day, he would be medevaced to Yellowknife and taken off life-support.

“I never even got to talk to him or anything,” Jennifer Maniyogena told CBC.

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A coroner’s inquest into Austin Maniyogena’s death begins Monday in Kugluktuk. The Nunavut coroner’s office says he died from a head injury sustained on Sept. 19, 2018 while in the custody of the RCMP. He had earlier been arrested for allegedly driving an ATV while intoxicated.  

The inquest aims to uncover the circumstances that led to the injury and his death. 

‘Young man with an old soul’

Austin Maniyogena grew up in Kugluktuk where his mother says he loved to spend time working on machines.

“He was a young man with an old soul. He had so much knowledge from his grandparents. Everyone went to him when they didn’t know how to fix their quad or engine or motor,” Jennifer Maniyogena says. 

“My son was so young but he had so many friends. I was so surprised at his funeral. There was lots of old people, young people, men, women, elders. I didn’t realize he had so many friends.”

Jennifer Maniyogena says her son was also a dedicated father to his young daughter, born just four months before his death. 

So far, she says she’s been given very little information about how he died. She says she asked Nunavut’s chief coroner, Khen Sagadraca, for an inquest into his death earlier this year.

“I don’t want other parents to bury their child,” she said. “It is the worst thing in the world to go through.”

The inquest, which is being led by the lead counsel for the coroner’s office, Sheldon Toner, begins Monday with jury selection. 

Once a jury has been selected, the inquest will hear from a number of witnesses. 

It is expected to wrap up on Friday with the jury releasing a list of recommendations on how to prevent similar deaths in the future.

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