John Panamick dies after home invasion, beating in M’Chigeeng

Council increasing night patrols in light of violent attacks in community

M’CHIGEENG—Family and friends of Johnny Panamick, the 70-year-old M’Chigeeng man who was beaten in his home on Sunday, May 11, are mourning his loss as the elder passed away in his intensive care unit bed at Health Sciences North in the early morning hours of Friday, June 13.

While police have been actively investigating the severe assault which left Mr. Panamick with two broken legs, broken ribs, a punctured lung, a broken cheek bone and numerous facial injuries, the case has changed as investigators with the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) await the results of the post mortem examination, which is scheduled for this week.

Sgt. Carolle Dionne said that while she could confirm that Mr. Panamick had died, the results of the examination would determine whether or not Mr. Panamick died as a result of the injuries sustained in the May 11 beating.

A case reported on the front page of last week’s edition of The Expositor of yet another home invasion in the community followed closely on the heels of the Johnny Panamick tragedy. In the second home invasion, two men forced their way into the home of a woman, demanding prescriptions drugs. While the woman was left unharmed, it is an unsettling incident. Chief of UCCM Police Rodney Nahwegahbow told The Expositor he did not believe that the two cases were related and said there was no need for the community to panic.

“This is an isolated incident,”  he said of the latest incident, but urges those with prescriptions to narcotics to keep them in a location known only to them, remove all labels and pharmacy slips before throwing empty containers into the garbage and to keep doorways well lit at night.

“If someone is in crisis, there is help in the community,” he said. “We can help make a referral, and will do what we can to make sure they get the proper help needed.”

Last week, before Mr. Panamick’s death, M’Chigeeng Chief Joe Hare sent out a letter to the community, appealing for the person(s) involved to turn themselves into police.

He begins with the Seven Grandfather teachings of love, honesty, bravery, respect, humility, wisdom and truth.

“My prayers go out to Johnny Panamick, his family and the community,” Chief Hare writes. “It is a terrible thing that happened. An elder, living alone, gets beat up so badly that he ends up in intensive care at the hospital. He is still there and will suffer life-long injuries. Every few years this sort of thing happens. I still firmly believe that we are a pretty decent group here in M’Chigeeng, but every now and then one or two or more people seem to go berserk and get vicious and attack others. One attack is one attack too many. Try as we do to prevent assaults, they still happen.”

“Going back to 1961, the chief and council of the day passed a curfew bylaw for the regulation of the activities of boys and girls,” he continued. “The curfew did not work then and still does not work today. There is an AA program, which Councillor Victor Migwans helps to run, and more recently, Melanie Migwans has started Narcotics Anonymous and is doing so on a voluntary basis. These programs help some people kick their habit and this is a good thing. The health centre has a methadone program, again, to help people get off drugs. Hopefully, this helps some people get off drugs but many are still taking other drugs and for them the methadone program will not work. M’Chigeeng sponsors conferences on drugs and addictions on at least an annual basis. Just several weeks ago, there was a youth conference—Inspiring Minds—which was well attended by many youth. Despite best efforts, we are not able to reach those few young people who have problems and they continue to do harm to themselves, their families, fellow band members and the community. We rely on the UCCM Police to serve and protect but there is not much they can do to prevent crime although their presence in the community may be a deterrent. Otherwise, they can arrest and charge the violators, but only after a crime has been committed.”

“Those persons who assaulted Johnny will be caught and they will end up in jail,” he writes. “I urge those who committed this heinous crime to turn themselves in to the police now. But what more can be done? On an interim basis, chief and council has hired Gerald Debassige to patrol the community. He will be on nightly duty from Wednesday evenings to Monday mornings. Councillor Linda Debassige will be making recommendations to UCCMM police for more patrols and to have a dedicated watch over the community. We have also sent out information on Crime Stoppers so when you see suspicious activity, please report what you see or what you suspect is going on. We don’t like OPP in our community, but we may have to rely on them, along with UCCM Police, to help protect us.”

“For the long term, chief and council will have to put more support into programs that will help guide and instruct our young people,” the chief continues. “Participation in organized sports and recreation, for example, can help build character. The idea of establishing a sports and recreation department and hiring people to run it is timely. Too many of our young kids are left out of participating in sports and recreation because of the cost of equipment and lack of transportation and because some parents just don’t care enough. Lakeview School, the principal and the teachers are trying hard to work with our kids in all areas but they need more community and parental involvement.”

“Several years ago, I introduced the Gwekwaadziwin program,” Chief Hare said. “It is intended to focus on young people with drug addictions and through Anishinabek teachings, practice of customs and traditions we could motivate young people to change their attitudes, instill pride, build self esteem, get more education or learn a skill and so they would become proud achievers and take good care of themselves and not be drug dependent. We are still working on developing the program. It is taking too long and maybe chief and council can hire a person to move it along quicker and incorporate Gwekwaadziwin and the spirituality of it in the daily lives of our children and youth and adults too. We have tried everything else and maybe in the end we will have to rely on Anishinabe spirituality to really care for each other. “

“I encourage band members to provide any information to the UCCM Police to assist to arrest the individual(s) responsible,” the chief concludes.

The man who was known for his sense of humour, generosity and love of the outdoors will be missed by his nine siblings, numerous nieces and nephews and countless friends. Funeral details will be made following the post mortem examination.

For any information that may help to solve this crime, contact the UCCM Police at 705-377-7135, the OPP at 1-888-310-1122 or Sudbury Rainbow Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS.