A coroner’s inquest into the January 2016 death of a woman who died while in Inuvik RCMP custody will be held Sept. 26.
Beverly Elanik, 51, went into medical distress after being taken to RCMP cells and later died. Police arrested her on Jan. 9, 2016 after she was found in an intoxicated state while walking along Bonnetplume Road, according to a news release from police issued shortly after her death.
The news release states the woman was initially taken to Inuvik Hospital where medical staff deemed her fit for incarceration. Elanik fell into distress the following morning as she was about to be released. Police attempted first aid before taking to hospital but she died a short time later, according to the news release.
The Medicine Hat Police Services in Alberta was called to conduct an external review of her death.
Preliminary autopsy results showed Elanik’s heart was enlarged and she suffered from clogged veins at the time of death.
Longtime coroner Garth Eggenberger of Yellowknife will be presiding over the inquest in Inuvik, according NWT chief coroner Cathy Menard, who ordered the inquest.
“There are two of us in the NWT that can do inquests, so Garth Eggenberger is going to be presiding at it this time,” said Menard.
“It’s a busy time with our coroner training going on, so I really appreciate it. We’re a two-person office; inquests really stretch our resources to the max.”
She said the inquest will be similar to a courtroom, with the presiding coroner as the judge, a jury and lawyers representing organizations that requested standing.
The inquest is being convened under an older subsection of the NWT Coroners Act that requires the coroner to call an inquest when a person dies in police custody. The law has since been changed to make that discretionary.
Menard said witnesses will be called and statements will be heard while a jury composed of Inuvik residents will issue a verdict on the death following the inquest and offer any recommendations it might find necessary.
“It’s a courtroom, we hear witness statements like any other trial except no one is on trial, no one is found guilty at the end,” she said.
“So the jury issues a verdict and recommendations. Well, they can issue recommendations, they don’t have to, but they can come back with a verdict which would be cause and manner of death.”
Sgt. Trevor Humphries, with the Major Crimes Section of the Medicine Hat police, said the department will be sending officers to attend the inquest. He declined to comment on their findings after the review.
RCMP did not respond to requests for comment by press time.
The inquest will take place at the Mackenzie Hotel in the Permafrost Room.