Press Releases 2008
For Immediate Release
April 18, 2008
Family of Missing University Student Deserves
Inquest into Presumed Death
Newmarket-Aurora MPP Frank Klees and NDP Justice Critic Peter Kormos will co-sponsor a press conference on the disappearance of Richmond Hill resident, Aju Iroaga, a 25-year-old McMaster University engineering student who disappeared in Northern Ontario in 2006 while working as a tree planter and is now presumed dead.
MPP Klees, members of Mr. Iroaga’s family and legal counsel will demand the McGuinty government call a coroner’s inquest into Mr. Iroaga’s disappearance.
Date: Monday, April 21, 2008 at 10:00 a.m.
Who: Marlys Edwardh,
Secretary of the Committee for Justice for Aju Iroaga
For further information:
Frank Klees, MPP
York Region News Group - Richmond Hill
by Joe Fantauzzi
Inquest could follow coroner’s investigation
Aju Iroaga disappeared in 2006.
Apr 21, 2008 05:03 PM
By: Joe Fantauzzi, Staff Writer
The family of a man who vanished nearly two years ago while working as a tree planter in Northern Ontario called on the province to launch an inquest into his disappearance.
Aju Iroaga, 26, a McMaster University engineering student, was recruited on the school’s campus by A & M Reforestation to plant trees two summers ago.
Mr. Iroaga stayed with his sister, Uchenwa Genus, in her Richmond Hill home before heading north. He disappeared May 15, 2006, near White River.
Before he vanished, Mr. Iroaga got into a dispute with a supervisor and was told to wait a short distance from the tree-planting site until an evening bus arrived, said Marlys Edwardh, the lawyer acting for Mr. Iroaga’s family.
“He was seen throughout that day, on and off, but at sometime around 4:30, Aju simply is viewed as having ... disappeared,” Ms Edwardh said during a news conference at Queen’s Park Monday morning.
The OPP launched a search and found no evidence of foul play.
But there is no evidence Mr. Iroaga walked off the job site by himself, Ms Edwardh said.
“Quite frankly, in our democratic community, we have institutions that call upon a process to account for the missing, the dead or persons who just vanish,” she said.
While left with questions, the man’s family continues to feel the pain of losing Mr. Iroaga, said his father, Nwab Iroaga.
“My family is greatly grieved,” Mr. Iroaga said. “It has devastated my family.” Today’s announcement was sponsored and attended by Newmarket-Aurora Progressive Conservative MPP Frank Klees. In 2006, Mr. Klees represented the riding of Oak Ridges.
Mr. Klees became aware of the case Nov. 17, 2006, when he met with the missing man’s father, he said.
In a letter to the Ontario Provincial Police, Mr. Klees asked the force to reactivate its probe into Mr. Iroaga’s disappearance. The OPP responded by saying the investigation was not closed and that officers would follow up on leads that came forward, according to a letter provided by Mr. Klees.
“But there is no evidence that an active and thorough investigation was really ever undertaken,” Mr. Klees said.
“On behalf of Aju Iroaga’s family, we’re calling on the government to direct the chief coroner’s office to conduct a full inquest. We believe that an inquest by the chief coroner’s office would have the jurisdictional authority to investigate all of the circumstances relating to this matter and will, hopefully, not only bring closure for the Iroaga family, but will also serve to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.”
The Labour Ministry also has a responsibility to play in the investigation because there are too many unanswered questions concerning the workplace environment, the circumstances that may have contributed to Mr. Iroaga’s reported dispute with his supervisor and the responsibility of the employer to ensure a safe workplace and transportation to and from that remote workplace in northern Ontario, Mr. Klees said.
“The assumption that parents make, that students make, is that when these jobs are being advertised and recruited on campuses — college or university — that the companies are responsible, that there is safety protocols in place,” Mr. Klees said. “This is a wake-up call. I think people should be careful.”
Paul Thususka, general manager/owner of A & M Reforestation, said he personally saw Mr. Iroaga’s father in northern Ontario when his son disappeared. He said his staff responded to the situation “in due course”.
After a disagreement about the planting of trees, Mr. Iroaga quit, Mr. Thususka said.
He was asked to sit on a bus and also offered a ride in another vehicle, but declined, Mr. Thususka said.
“We can’t physically restrain someone if they want to leave our job site,” he said, adding he rented a helicopter to assist in the search for Mr. Iroaga.
Mr. Thususka said he and his employee had an amicable relationship and believes the McMaster student is still alive.
“I hope for the best for the family and Aju,” Mr. Thususka said.
A coroner’s investigation is currently underway, but until that probe is completed, a decision cannot be made as to whether or not a coroner’s inquest will be held, according to a spokesperson for the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
A coroner’s death investigation involves the coroner’s office probing deaths caused by factors including violence, misadventure, negligence, misconduct or malpractice as well as sudden or unexpected deaths.
A coroner’s inquest is a public hearing held for the purpose of presenting evidence to a jury of five members of the community in which a person died. After hearing about the death, the jury is responsible for answering who the deceased was and, how, where, when and by what means the person died.
The jury may also makes recommendations that might avoid deaths in similar circumstances.
© 2008 Frank Klees, M.P.P. All Rights Reserved