Annie Pootoogook is an internationally renowned artist and recipient of the 2006 Sobey Art Award. She was originally from Cape Dorset but spent much of the last years of her life in Ottawa.
A few weeks before her death, Annie told family members that she feared for her life. Her body was found in the Rideau River, but the police deemed it non-criminal.
Annie was Indigenous - Inuk, and shared much of the beauty and honest perspectives of what it's like to grow up and live in a remote Canadian community. Her drawings and coloured works were revered across the globe, and touched the lives of many. It's sad to say that during the investigation into the cause of her death, forensic officer Sgt. Hrnchiar who oversaw the investigation said her death: "could be a suicide, accidental, she got drunk and fell in the river and drowned, who knows," in a Facebook comment just a few days after her body was found according to CBC. "much of the Aboriginal population in Canada is just satisfied being alcohol or drug abusers," he said in a second post. It's clear that his bias meant the investigation would not be taken seriously.
Over a year later, the officer was temporarily demoted and the case reopened, but the new investigation said the cause of Annie's death was inconclusive. Unfortunately the deaths of Indigenous men, women and children across the country are far from taken seriously. We live in the nation's capital, and have the chance and responsibility to help change the discourse around Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
We want the details of the investigation made public so that we can scrutinize the findings, procedures and officers involved. It should be up to the public to determine for themselves if the police did their job, and to maybe, finally, find some sort of peace or justice for the family.
Independent journalist Jordan Haworth will head this project.