The family of Rudy Kishayinew want police to take her death “more seriously.”
The 22-year-old indigenous woman’s younger sister spoke at a candlelight vigil in Kishayinew’s honour Friday evening, held at the spot behind a Saskatoon Tribal Council Health Centre on 20th Street where she was found on New Year’s Day.
“It was honestly hard not to cry knowing she was laying right there,” Crystal Kishayinew said, pointing to the spot where her sister was found.
Saskatoon police ruled the death “accidental” after a five-day investigation, turning the matter over to the Chief Coroner’s Office. But Kishayinew says officers dismissed the death too easily.
“From what I know, she doesn’t just go pass out randomly,” she said, adding Rudy was found without a jacket or shoes on.
“If you were drunk and blacked out would you come here… take all your **** off and pass out?”
Kishayinew is calling for police to re-open the investigation, instead of ruling it as “just another native dead.”
Hospital toss out
She also addressed the conflicting reports as to whether her sister had been removed from St. Paul’s Hospital during the early morning hours.
Kishayinew said a friend saw Rudy interact with security officers at the hospital, and that they “hauled her out.”
A press release from St. Paul’s on Thursday said the hospital had no record of anyone being asked to leave that night, but they had provided surveillance footage to police.
Kishayinew said she’s been offered a chance to review the footage herself, and she’ll be looking for anomolies.
She asked for anyone with information about her sister’s death to come forward.
“I want to piece it together,” she said. “I want peace, I want to know what happened.”
More support needed
The vigil, which attracted over 30 people, also addressed the issue of shelters on Saskatoon’s west side.
Lynn Thompson, who led much of the ceremony, said most of the emergency shelters were too far from where Rudy Kishayinew was found.
“It’s a long way to walk when you’re cold, hungry, high or drunk,” she said, referring to the distance between St. Paul’s and the YWCA and Lighthouse shelters.
She added more needed to be done to ensure no-one else freezes to death in Saskatoon.
Ward 2 councillor Hillary Gough was present at the vigil and said community organizations need to analyze whether things could have been handled better.
“If people are dying of exposure in our city, there was a crack in the system that didn’t need to be there,” she said.
“We need to figure out how to fill those and that’s everyone’s responsibility.”
Gough said she’s had a conversation with police about the death and is awaiting the coroner’s report, which could take between four and six months to complete.
“As to what happened… I’m not sure,” she said. “But it’s important we take the concerns of the community seriously and we find out what happened.”