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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Shamattawa fire deaths may be linked to suicide

The second body found in a house destroyed by fire early Saturday morning on the Shamattawa Indian reserve will likely be identified as the mother of the missing 11-year-old boy who has already been named as the other victim.

RCMP and band residents know this but are apparently withholding the information because her death may be a suicide which preceded the fire, according to evidence provided in separate news stories from the community.

Pharoah Thomas, a Pentecostal pastor in Shamattawa, told the CBC on Tuesday that he "received a phone call early Saturday from a woman saying it would be the last time he ever heard from her and asked him to watch over her son. Then she hung up."

Thomas told the Globe and Mail the phone call came from the daughter of the homeowners. The missing 11-year-old boy is the grandson of the homeowners.

Although he is in the custody of Child and Family Services, he was on an authorized visit with his grandparents.

The pastor told the CBC he ran over to the home of the woman who called him and found it ablaze. He said he kicked the door open and crawled around to the various bedrooms, but was driven out by the fire.

He called the RCMP and, according to the RCMP press release, shortly after 4 a.m. officers were dispatched to the housefire. They met with Thomas, "(a) civilian at the scene (who) informed the RCMP members that he had spotted the house on fire, broke down the door and yelled out for anyone inside the residence without any response back. Due to flames and smoke no one could go inside the house."

Though this was well before dawn Saturday, it wasn't until the next day that RCMP located the owners of the house. They speak only Cree, but the RCMP said there was no communication problem. The grandparents said they had left the house to stay with friends when heating oil ran out. Nobody was in the house when they left, they said.

But that explanation fails to answer the most important questions.

Marie Lands, head of the Northern Authority that oversees the Awasis child welfare agency, said it could have been a case of miscommunication between the grandparents and the foster family each of whom may have believed the boy was in the other's care. That scenario fails to explain how the grandparents could have left their house without knowing where their grandson was. He obviously wasn't with them. So where did they think he was? At the foster parents? Well, when did they think he went there? How long was he gone from their care and control before they left their house, supposedly empty?

Did their daughter have a key to the house? How much time passed between the moment the grandparents locked the front door and the phone call to Pastor Thomas?

The fire must have been the talk of the reserve on Saturday, so why didn't the grandparents come forward on Saturday? Where were they? It's not like they could just drive down the road to the next town. There is no next town.

Again, its obvious that CFS had removed the 11-year-old from the mother's care. Why? Did the grandparents return the boy to his mother? Is that why they weren't immediately concerned about his well-being?

Many of the answers apparently lie with Pastor Thomas.

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