10 correctional officers charged following death of Indigenous man in N.L. jail

Ten correctional officers have been charged with crimes ranging from manslaughter to criminal negligence causing death in connection with the 2019 death of an Inuk man in a St. John’s jail.

The charges follow the death of Jonathan Henoche, a 33-year-old Inuk man from Labrador, who died at Her Majesty’s Penitentiary on Nov. 6, 2019, after an alleged altercation with correctional officers. He had been awaiting trial on charges including first-degree murder in relation to the 2016 death of an 88-year-old woman in Labrador.

Shortly after Henoche died, police announced his death was being investigated as a homicide.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said Tuesday in a news release one officer is charged with manslaughter and failure to provide necessities of life; two officers are charged with manslaughter; and the remaining seven officers are charged with criminal negligence causing death.

The officers facing charges range in age 28 to 51. Two of the officers facing criminal negligence charges are women, both in their 30s. Police say the accused officers were released from custody on certain conditions, and will appear in provincial court on Feb. 11, 2021.

RNC Const. James Cadigan said the correctional officers’ identities will not be released until the charges are sworn in court, which must happen before their February court date.

Robert Hoskins, a St. John’s lawyer who had represented Henoche, responded to the RNC news release on Twitter: “As an aboriginal myself, it’s hard not to look at this through the lens of systemic racism,” he wrote.

Hoskins said that by not releasing the officers’ names, police are “offering extra protections that are not usually offered.

“How many aboriginal accused persons get to have their bail hearings deferred on manslaughter charges? Or get to have their names withheld from the media?”

Cadigan said the decision to withhold the correctional officers’ names is “within the confines of the law, based on the charges.”

A spokeswoman for the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees, which represents corrections officers, said Tuesday it couldn’t comment on the case as the matter is heading to court.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 22, 2020.

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