Questions are still swirling around the death of a 22-year-old indigenous woman that was deemed unsuspicious by Saskatoon police.
Friends say Rudy Lynn Kishayinew was seeking shelter from the cold at St. Paul’s hospital in the early hours of New Year’s Day with a friend.
They claim the two were “kicked out” around 3:15 a.m., and hours later Kishayinew’s body was found in the alley near the Rexall Pharmacy across the street from the hospital.
“We think she decided to wait for her methadone,” said Lynn Thompson, who is helping to plan a vigil for the young woman.
The event is planned for Friday at 7 p.m. outside the Rexall location. The family won’t be involved, and organizers have requested no photography.
Thompson said Kishayinew and her friend were denied use of the phone and asked to leave by security.
She said the friends parted ways after leaving the hospital, and some reports suggest Kishayinew was without a jacket.
“It’s our second freezing death of the year,” Thompson said.
Environment Canada records indicate the temperature hit a low of -24.1 C with a windchill of -33 C on Jan. 1.
The coroner’s office has not determined cause of death, with toxicology and a full report not expected for another four-to-six months.
Police told 650 CKOM that interviews with those who were with Kishayinew that night didn’t suggest any foul play.
The hospital released a statement Thursday afternoon to address the death, saying they had no record of anyone being removed from St. Paul’s during the time in question.
“Our staff, including security, watch those who enter and their job is to ensure this hospital is a safe haven for all those who enter our building, including those who do not have medical needs,” the statement read.
St. Paul’s Hospital has provided surveillance footage to police as the coroner’s investigation continues.
The statement did note that staff may ask those who are able to leave the hospital if their ability to care for those in medical need is compromised.
“However, in these instances, our staff will support those who are clearly incapacitated and may face harm should they leave.”
The hospital said they were in contact with Kishayinew’s family in the interests of reconciliation, and to help “support their healing journey and answer their questions.”
NDP claim Lighthouse funding changes to blame
The provincial opposition has taken up the issue at the legislature, with NDP MLA Nicole Rancourt claiming Kishayinew’s death was the result of funding cuts to the Lighthouse shelter.
However, the Saskatchewan Party says social services’ “cold weather strategy” was in effect that night.
The strategy allows for shelters like the Lighthouse to take in anyone to protect them from the cold, even if there are no beds available.
“No-one who is in need and asks for help will be left without a safe and warm place to sleep,” said Chief of Operations and Communications Kathy Young.