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Man's death in Gatineau prompting conversation about housing supports for Indigenous residents

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Christine Angnetsiak is still grappling with the tragic death of her cousin, Tommy Robert Angnetsiak.

His body was found on the bank of the Ottawa River near Gatineau's Jacques Cartier Park on April 6. Police say no foul play is suspected.

The body of 30-year-old Tommy Robert Angetsiak was found on the bank of the Ottawa River near Gatineau's Jacques Cartier Park on April 6, 2024. (CTV News Ottawa)

"The last he was heard from was in November and he was reported missing in March," Angnetsiak said. "We tried to get the word out that he was missing. We did all we could."

The 30-year-old was from Pond Inlet, Nunavut. He moved to Ottawa 15 years ago for a better life. His family says Tommy was experiencing homelessness and had struggled with addiction.

Friends and the community showed an outpouring of support on social media.

"A lot of people actually came forward and said a lot of the same things as I did and said how generous and how kind he was," Angnetsiak said.

Tommy's death is now sparking a conversation around the disproportionate impact of homelessness and substance abuse on the Indigenous population in Ottawa.

Indigenous people represent about 4 per cent of Ottawa's population. A 2021 survey from the City of Ottawa found 32 per cent of people experiencing homelessness identified as Indigenous, but that number is likely higher. Of those, 59 per cent indicated living with substance use.

"There should be more from the shelters, specifically, and for Indigenous people in the city because of the amount of new people there is in this," said Angnetsiak , "and because of the struggles we face and the generational trauma and everything our people are going through."

Arrangements to bring his body back to Nunavut are in the works, with a GoFundMe page set up to help with the costs.

"I loved Tommy so much. There's no one like him. His spirit is one of a kind," said Angnetsiak. "I just wish I was able to hug him one last time."

A coroner's investigation is now underway. Gatineau police previously said there was no foul play suspected in his death.

Correction

A previous version of this article misspelled the family name Angnetsiak and misspelled Christine Angnetsiak's name as Christina. The correct spellings are now present.

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