Samwel Uko’s family continues to seek justice from the system that failed their son


This is how Samwel Uko’s parents describe the loss of their 20-year-old son.

Joice Guya Issa Bankando and Taban Uko have not spoken publicly about their son’s death since his body was found in Regina’s Wascana Lake two years ago – a death they believe was the result of a suicide.

Now, as an inquest into their son’s death begins this weekthey broke their silence in an exclusive interview with CBC News.

A memorial for Samwel Uko in Abbotsford, British Columbia (Baneet Braich/for Radio-Canada)

For Samwel’s family, the investigation is just the latest in a search for answers. What happened and why did it have to be him?

The journey is fueled by the belief that their son did not receive proper care because he was black.

“The scale of justice has to be balanced. That’s what I’m looking for,” Samwel’s father Taban said, speaking through an interpreter.

The Scale of Justice

Samwel was found dead in Wascana Lake on May 21, 2020.

He had twice sought medical help for mental health issues the day before. He was forcibly removed from Regina General Hospital.

The body of the talented footballer was found a few hours later.

Samwel’s family believe his race affected how nurses, doctors and the entire healthcare system responded to his mental health crisis.

They hope that something good can come out of the investigation and that what happened to their son will never happen to anyone else.

“People should be treated with respect no matter what they look like,” Taban said.

Justin Nyee, Samwel’s uncle, said the family didn’t just want their quest for justice to end with the investigation. They believe those responsible should be held accountable.

Justin Nyee, Samwel Uko’s uncle, said he wants those responsible for Samwel’s forcible removal from Regina General Hospital to be held accountable. (Omayra Issa/CBC)

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has already apologized to Samwel’s family. He would later admit in a legal document that he failed to provide follow-up care and paid the family $81,000 in damages.

Taban remains unhappy with the SHA over the treatment Samwell received and the way officials treated their family.

He said the family could not consult with lawyers about what taking the money would mean after being approached by the SHA.

“[They] said to take that money and not tell everybody because people are dying from Corona,” he said, saying the representative was concerned that family members of those who died from COVID -19 are also suing the health authority.

WATCH | A video shows Samwel Uko being removed from Regina General Hospital:

Video shows Samwel Uko being removed from Regina General Hospital

Samwel Uko asked for help twice on the day of his death. Uko was removed by security from Regina General Hospital.

The next day, the SHA told the media that it had apologized and provided the money to Samwel’s family.

Taban said they didn’t get a dollar from the silver.

“If they need money, we are ready to give it back to them,” he said.

A makeshift memorial has been erected on a shore of Wascana Lake in Regina, where witnesses say Samwel Uko entered the water the day he died. (Kirk Fraser/CBC)

To the family’s knowledge, no one has been held responsible and no criminal charges have been laid.

“They admitted they didn’t give him the care he deserved, admitted he shouldn’t be kicked out of the hospital. They admitted they didn’t follow the process,” he said. said Nyee.

“Someone failed to do their job and that person should lose their job and should actually face criminal charges for it.”

Racism in Health Care

For community activists like Muna da Ciman, Samwel’s death is a sign that the health system is not well equipped to care for patients from diverse backgrounds.

“[Mental health] has no limits, it affects everyone,” she said.

Ciman said the impacts of mental illness are not just on an individual, but on their family and community.

She said she was cautious about going for treatment and always felt more comfortable when a black person cared for her.

She said the incident caused many in Saskatchewan’s black community to lose faith in the health care system and called for more culturally appropriate mental health services in the province.

“If that night we had culturally sensitive people around us or someone who looked like Samwel, maybe Samwel would have been alive today. When I go to the hospital and see a black person or see a black doctor, I feel good, so I feel safe,” she added.

In a statement, the Saskatchewan Health Authority said “in terms of cultural responsiveness, [it] is committed to having a workforce representative of all demographics that can better support our diverse population. »

Asked by CBC whether staff have received anti-racism training, SHA said “measures are already in place which we believe will begin to better position SHA to meet the diverse needs of our population, including a mandatory cultural responsiveness training as part of employee orientation.”

A life cut short

Samwel’s parents say they will forever carry the hurt of their son’s tragic death.

Taban said his work has been affected, leaving him unable to do what he should be able to.

Both parents spoke of the promise of what could have been and the disappointment that Samwel’s bright future is no longer coming true.

He could have finished his studies and finished his studies.

WATCH| Saskatchewan. Health authority apologizes for not admitting black man to hospital twice before he died:

Saskatchewan. health authority apologizes for not admitting black man to hospital twice before he died

The Saskatchewan Health Authority has apologized to the family of a young black man who died after he was twice denied admission to a Regina hospital amid a mental health crisis. Despite the apology, Samwel Uko’s family is calling for changes to the health care system, as well as more support for Black people in Saskatchewan, especially those in crisis.

His mother remembers her son as someone who never had a problem with anyone and always had a smile on his face. It makes his loss so much more painful.

“I should have seen his future. He left,” Bankando said.

The family saw the video of their son being forcibly removed from the hospital.

They say the way he was treated shouldn’t have happened to a human being.

“I love my son,” Bankando said.

If you or someone you know is having trouble, here’s where to get help:

This guide to Center for Addiction and Mental Health explains how to talk about suicide with someone you’re worried about.