Ontario’s police watchdog, the Special Investigations Unit, says there will be no criminal charges will be laid against Timmins Police Service officers following the deaths of two Fort Albany First Nation residents in two separate incidents over a year ago.

The SIU is a civilian law enforcement agency that investigates incidents of death, serious injury or sexual assault allegations involving police officers, and determines if a criminal offence has been committed.

Separate investigations into the deaths of 62-year-old Agnes Sutherland and 21-year-old Joey Knapaysweet on February 3, 2018 in police-related incidents included dozens of witnesses, from officers involved and civilians.

The SIU director’s report in the Knapaysweet incident alleges that officers responded to an assistance call at the ambulance bay on Algonquin Boulevard East in Timmins and found him ‘acting strangely.’ TPS officers say a foot chase ensued after they arrived and at one point, the man charged at police while holding two knifes resulting in him being shot by an officer. Knapaysweet was taken to hospital and was later pronounced dead. His cause of death was multiple gunshot wounds. A toxicology report noted the presence of a variety of drugs, most significantly methamphetamine, cocaine, and THC. The report also stated that the “high level” of methamphetamine in the man’s blood would explain the behaviour reported by police and emergency service workers.

Many people in the Indigenous community expressed anger, outrage and grief after Knapaysweet was shot by police on Gillies Lake during an interaction.

In the SIU director’s report in the Sutherland incident, it says police were called to Timmins District Hospital to help remove a 62-year-old diabetic woman. The report reveals that Sutherland had been living at a women’s shelter in Timmins due to multiple health problems that required treatment that was unavailable in her hometown of Fort Albany. She began to refuse kidney dialysis treatment on February 2.  The next day, she woke up complaining of chest pains and was rushed to the hospital. A doctor advised her to undergo dialysis, but again she refused and stated she wanted to go back to Fort Albany to die.  She was involuntarily committed under the Mental Health Act, but was later released after being assessed by a psychiatrist. Hospital staff said they and the shelter would help her get transportation back to Fort Albany after the weekend, at which point Sutherland is said to have become belligerent with staff.

That is when police were called. When police asked her to leave, she left in a taxi.

Officers followed her taxi to the shelter. When she arrived, a shelter employee greeted her with a wheelchair and Agnes started making threats to the police officers.  She was then placed under arrest for uttering threats. That night at the jail, Sutherland asked to speak to a psychiatrist and was sent back to hospital in an ambulance. After being examined by the emergency department, she was transferred to the hospice centre where she died the next day.

An autopsy on Sutherland revealed the cause of death to be “complications of endstage diabetic nephropathy in a woman with ischemic heart disease.”