'They should have got a hold of us': Family angry after loved one buried in Saskatoon without their knowledge
SASKATOON -- Leon Weeseekase is trying to bring his brother home after the family discovered he was buried in the City of Saskatoon’s Woodlawn Cemetery without the family’s knowledge or permission.
“They should have got a hold of us. They should have tried harder,” Weeseekase said.
According to medical records provided by the family, 51 year-old Wayne Harris Weeseekase was admitted into St. Paul’s Hospital on Aug. 2. He had difficulty breathing with pre-existing health conditions including thyroid storm and Graves’ disease.
“He had not filled his medication for Graves’ disease for at least 7 months before he presented to the emergency department with tachycardia and with radiographic findings of either heart failure or pneumonia,” the doctor said in his notes.
Medical staff provided Weeseekase with medication to help him breathe better and also suggested intubation numerous times but Weeseekase refused and was noncompliant.
“He could not tolerate lying flat. He was quite aggressive but appeared to be competent and we could not go against his wishes despite telling him he was going to die without being intubated,” said the doctor.
More antibiotics were given to Weeseekase but his condition did not improve.
On Aug. 8, Weeseekase became so exhausted that he had asked to be intubated but during the procedure he died from cardiac arrest and could not be resuscitated. An autopsy was not requested.
Wayne Weeseekase, middle, is pictured in this photo from the late 1990s. (Courtesy Darrell Delorme)
“He had no family to communicate this with. I believe he does have family, however, he is completely estranged with them to the point that social work had deemed him to be, if he became incompetent/ventilated, to model-of-care to decide his care if and when he became incapacitated," said the doctor who then filled out Weeseekase’s death certificate and handed the file over to the hospital’s social worker.
Mike Delorme, Weeseekase’s close cousin, disputes what the doctor said regarding the family’s connection to Weeseekase.
“He always contacted family. We don’t believe that. Somebody at the hospital (initially) told us he died of COVID-19 and he didn’t die of COVID-19. From what we see, there was no effort at all put in to contact the family,” added Delorme.
Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) spokesperson Lisa Thomson said they could not comment on a patient’s private information without appropriate consent.
She said medical staff check a patient’s chart for family listed and all best attempts are made to find next of kin including connecting with local police and RCMP databases. If SHA knows the patient lives or comes from a First Nation, attempts will be made to connect with the First Nation’s health clinic.
“However, in some instances there is either no information within any of the records or all known telephone numbers are disconnected. If no next of kin is able to be reached or found then we proceed to contact a funeral home,” Thomson said.
“I don’t know how hard it is to phone any reserve. I don’t know why they didn’t contact either Leon’s side of the family if he used Weeseekase. He would always call himself a Delorme,” said Darrell Delorme, Wayne’s step-brother.
Weeseekase was a Sixties Scoop Survivor and his medical record states he also struggled with alcoholism. He was living in Saskatoon on social assistance and was primarily raised by the Delorme family. Family also said he was known by police authorities throughout his life. In 2015, his primary caregiver, Lucy Delorme passed away. Mike Delorme said Weeseekase struggled with her passing.
“I imagine (the Sixties Scoop) is why he was an alcoholic and was in and out of jail. I grew up with him since he was three years old. He was a good person, he loved to laugh, he loved family but then he stopped contacting us when Lucy died,” Mike said.
Weeseekase’s body then became the responsibility of the Saskatoon Funeral Home on Aug. 13. He was buried 10 days after his death, on Aug. 18, at Woodlawn Cemetery.
The family says they didn’t find out he had died or that he had been buried until he was already in the ground.
Morgan Edwards, the funeral home’s general manager, said the Ministry of Social Services and SHA stated Weeseekase had no next of kin listed to make arrangements and as a result followed the province’s Funeral and Cremation Services Act and buried the body.
The grave of Wayne Weeseekase in Woodlawn Cemetery. (Creeson Agecoutay/CTV Saskatoon)
“We became responsible on behalf of the health region and social services. We did the work (of both) and their instruction to us was that there was no next of kin available to make arrangements. Our resources as a funeral home to connect with family would be through that person’s income assistance worker and their health care team so those are the departments we would take direction from. We act in cases where there are no next of kin and we are assisting the province with a dignified burial of a member of our province,” Edwards said.
“The family has a right to be sad and upset and looking for any information on Wayne and how their information wasn’t present with his care and how they may have not been listed as next of kin in any of his records.”
Both the Ministry of Social Services and the City of Saskatoon said they did not make the decision on the burial.
“The ministry did not make this decision and does not have a record indicating who was designated as a decision maker in this instance. If a person dies in hospital, the hospital social worker may also investigate. The body will be placed in a funeral home and if the funeral home is unable to locate a decision maker or next of kin, the funeral home will request the Ministry of Social Services to authorize a decision maker as outlined in Section 91 of the Funeral and Cremation Services Act. That request is often made to the local Social Services office,” the ministry said in a written statement, adding there is a variety of ways to contact next of kin similar to SHA.
Darren Crilly, the City of Saskatoon’s director of parks, said the Ministry of Social Services gives direction to funeral homes who coordinate through Woodlawn Cemetery. “Woodlawn is not involved in the process of family notification,” Crilly said.
Makwa Sahgaiehcan First Nation and the St. Walburg Funeral Home are working with the Weeseekase family and the Saskatoon Funeral Home to bring Wayne home so he can be buried with his mother in Ministikwan Lake Cree Nation. Edwards said they would waive the fee to assist the family.
Leon Weeseekase. (Submitted photo)
Leon said he will continue to speak up and bring awareness to how he sees First Nation people are treated in Canada.
“It’s a prime example of how we are treated like dirt in our own country, just like my brother (Wayne) being buried without us being notified. The Weeseekase family. The Delorme family or the Partridge family, something needs to be done, we got to do something.”