Correctional officers arrested in death of Indigenous man in N.L. jail: police

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — Police say several correctional officers have been arrested in connection with the death of an Indigenous man in a Newfoundland and Labrador provincial jail — but they won't say how many.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said Monday in a news release the arrests were related to the death of Jonathan Henoche at Her Majesty's Penitentiary in St. John's. Police did not say when the correctional officers were arrested.

Henoche was 33 when he died on Nov. 6, 2019, following a reported altercation with officers at the jail. 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.

Const. James Cadigan refused to tell The Canadian Press on Monday in a phone interview how many correctional officers had been arrested. "We're still, essentially, looking at providing further information once the investigation continues to progress," Cadigan said. He said the situation was "fluid."

Police said in Monday's news release the charges have not been sworn in court, and that those arrested have been released on certain conditions and will appear in court at a later date.

Henoche family lawyer Bob Buckingham said the family was told arrests had been made Monday morning, and that more arrests were pending. Buckingham has called for a public inquiry into Henoche's death.

He said now that people have been arrested, the Henoche family is relieved. He said he's concerned, however, about the lack of information police are providing. "The family has not been told how many people have been charged and what they have been charged with," Buckingham said in an interview Monday.

"I am concerned with the fact that people have been arrested and released because that tells me that the charges are not as serious under the Criminal Code as I would have expected."

He said police had not been in contact with him.

Justice Minister Steve Crocker issued a statement Monday saying the situation is "highly sensitive and serious."

"We have and will continue to review policies and procedures in adult corrections to ensure we meet best practices from across the country," Crocker said, adding that he couldn't disclose details of the case.

He said that as an employer, his department is unable to comment on whether or not the officers are still working at the jail.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 21, 2020.

Sarah Smellie, The Canadian Press