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Meet Nunavut's chief coroner, Padma Suramala

Indian-born Suramala investigates the deceased in a territory with high rates of murder, suicide and infant death

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Padma Suramala, Nunavut’s chief coroner, was born in India to a military family.

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She joined the Indian military in 1983 and served as a nurse for 21 years.

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She was sent to the North, where her nursing experience was highly valued, when she arrived in Canada in 2005. In the last three years, Padma has overseen more than 500 death investigations.

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Padma, or one of her volunteers, conducts an external examination on every death in the territory.

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Nunavut has high rates of murder, suicide and sudden infant death among its peoples.

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Padma began working as chief coroner by filling in for a sick leave.

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Padma expects to remain as chief coroner for about 10 years. Most only last a handful of years before moving on to something else.

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“If one person dies in a family, it takes a long time to recover from the shock of their loss. For me, it’s like constant waves hitting every day and every hour,” she says of the emotional toll her work can take.

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