Public inquest into death of Samwel Uko postponed due to COVID-19 concerns

·2 min read
The public inquest into 20-year-old Samwel Uko's death has been postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, according to the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General.  (Baneet Braich/for CBC - image credit)
The public inquest into 20-year-old Samwel Uko's death has been postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, according to the Ministry of Justice and Attorney General. (Baneet Braich/for CBC - image credit)

The public inquest into Samwel Uko's death, originally scheduled for next week, has been postponed until "further notice" because of COVID-19 concerns.

Samwel Uko was found dead in Wascana Lake on May 21, 2020, shortly after seeking help twice at Regina General Hospital while experiencing mental issues.

Uko's family said he died by suicide.

The Saskatchewan Health Authority apologized to his family in July 2020, and later said in a legal document that it failed to provide follow-up care to Uko and paid $81,000 to his family.

The inquest was originally scheduled to run Sept. 20 to 24. Saskatchewan's chief coroner postponed the anticipated inquest until "further notice," a news release said, citing new provincial COVID-19 protocols announced on Thursday as well as concern over the health and safety of those involved.

"This decision was reached in consultation with the inquest coroner, inquest counsel, and the parties with standing. The family of Samwel Uko has been notified of this decision," it said.

Uko's uncle, Justin Paul, told CBC News that the family is "disappointed" by the postponement.

Noel Busse, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice and attorney general, said he wasn't sure if another venue was considered for the inquest, but given the general interest in inquests the ministry decided postponement was the best course of action.

No future date was set for the inquest, but Busse said the Saskatchewan Coroner's Service will be monitoring the situation and will reschedule when they deem it safe to do so.

"This isn't a decision that was come to lightly. The [Saskatchewan] Coroner's Service is aware of the interest in the case and the decision was made specifically to ensure the inquest could be held and that they could be confident that the act of holding the inquest wasn't going to put anyone's health or safety ... at risk," he said.

Inquest like this are meant to establish who, when and where died, as well as the manner and cause of their death. They are not criminal proceedings.

The coroner's jury could make recommendations to prevent similar deaths from happening in the future.

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