Judge sets scope of inquest into death of Eishia Hudson, who was shot by Winnipeg police in 2020

The inquest into the death of 16-year-old Eishia Hudson, who was shot and killed by Winnipeg police in 2020, will determine if systemic racism played a role in her death and examine whether the use and level of force was warranted and/or appropriate.

Judge Margaret Wiebe’s decision on the scope of the inquest was issued on May 21 but not made public until Friday. Counsel for Hudson’s family, the Winnipeg Police Service, the Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth and the First Nations Family Advocate Office all made submissions prior to Wiebe’s ruling. 

An inquest can be called if the chief medical examiner has reason to believe the person died as a result of use of force by a peace officer acting in the course of duty, according to the Fatalities Inquiries Act.

The consideration of Hudson’s life and death, including the social and cultural context of her life will form part of the scope. This portion will include information provided by her family and from a Manitoba Advocate for Children and Youth report. 

That report is called Memengwaa Widoodaagewin, or Butterfly Project, according to the decision. It reviewed and assessed the designated services provided to Hudson and her family. 

The report has a section focused on interactions between police and racialized youth and also considers the benefits of wrap-around services and the benefits of making these accessible for all youth, Wiebe’s decision said. 

Eishia Hudson takes a picture of herself in a mirror.
Eishia Hudson, 16, was shot and killed by Winnipeg police in April 2020. Police said the teen and other youths robbed a Liquor Mart before being chased by police. (Eishia Hudson/Facebook)

Its observations, findings and recommendations will be considered in the scope of the inquest. 

Wiebe also said in the decision it’s important to understand Hudson’s experience in the child welfare system. Wiebe noted the experience of Hudson, including her encounters with police, will have influenced her perceptions and “perhaps her actions leading up to her death.” 

Hudson was shot and killed by a Winnipeg police officer, following a pursuit in which police say she drove a vehicle involved in a liquor store robbery in Winnipeg’s Sage Creek neighbourhood on April 8, 2020. 

Whether the use and level of the force was warranted and/or appropriate in all the circumstances, will also be considered. 

It will also be examined during the inquest whether systemic racism, if any, played a part in Hudson’s death. 

The decision said Hudson was identified as an Indigenous person during the incident with Winnipeg police on the day of her death. What effect or influence, if any, this had on the decisions and actions of the officers will “form part of the factual matrix of this case,” Wiebe wrote in her decision. 

While the Independent Investigation Unit of Manitoba —  which investigates all serious matters involving police — may have looked at this issue, this case calls for an independent examination by an independent person with expertise in the subject of structural racism/discrimination and if possible, an expert who can speak specifically to the interactions between Indigenous persons and police, Wiebe’s decision said. 

Manitoba’s police watchdog found the police officer responsible for Hudson’s death was not criminally liable.

Social context evidence from the First Nations Family Advocate Office will also be considered. 

Wiebe said while there’s no way to know what Hudson’s perceptions of police were and if they influenced her actions and circumstances of her death, evidence presented by a representative of the FNFAO youth advisory group may shed light on these issues given the focus group will involve Indigenous youth who have similar experiences as Hudson.

Wiebe said in her decision the court has previously indicated the inquest won’t be an expansive look at the intersection of the youth criminal justice system and the child welfare system and how that may generally affect young people. 

However, the expert who will testify about the contents of the report, will provide the academic foundation to better understand how a young person like Hudson came to be in the situation she was in and how her life experiences may have had an impact on her perceptions and actions on the day of her death, the decision said. 

Wiebe wrote she’s mindful the scope isn’t “precisely defined” because no evidence has been heard yet. In order to carefully consider the relevant issues, flexibility must remain in the definition of the scope, Wiebe wrote in the decision. 

“I am confident all parties recognize and agree, this inquest is focused on the cause, manner, and circumstances of the death of Eishia Hudson and how to prevent such a death occurring in the future,” Wiebe wrote in the decision. “It is not a roving inquiry. It is also not a forum to advance personal interests and agendas, nor find and assign blame, or find culpability of any person, group, or organization.”

A lawyer for Hudson’s family told CBC News Friday a date hasn’t been set for the inquest.