Correctional Service Canada—Care of Prisoners—Inquiry ProcessPublished on 17 May 2017 Hansard and Statements by Senator Joan Fraser
Hon. Joan Fraser:
Honourable senators, I’m going to crave your indulgence for a slightly longer than usual preamble to this question, because I think it’s important for colleagues who are unaware of this case to understand something about its details.
My question is going to concern the death of Matthew Hines, who was 33 years old when, two years ago this month, he died in custody at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick.
According to the final post-mortem report in New Brunswick from the coroner’s office, the cause of his death “appears to be acute asphyxia due to extensive pulmonary edema following administration of pepper spray.”
Well might the coroner say that.
It began shortly after 10 p.m., on the May 26, two years ago, when Mr. Hines was dilatory — not aggressive, not violent, but dilatory — in returning to his cell for the night.
Officers spoke to him; guards spoke to him. He was taken down onto the floor. His head was cut, and he was bleeding. Things went from bad to worse.
Mr. Hines was given pepper spray at least six times, directly in the face, within a space of 10 minutes. The Correctional Investigator has found that this administration of pepper spray was, to put it mildly, unnecessary. For example, the first administration of pepper spray came at a time when, for the second time, Mr. Hines was down on the ground, prone, facedown, handcuffed to the rear, restrained by and in the control of five officers, but still he got a blast of pepper spray straight into his face. And it went on.
He was frog-marched across the yard toward the segregation unit backwards, still handcuffed to the rear, without any shoes. By this time he’s frightened. He’s pleading for help. He was placed in the decontamination shower. Actually, he fell in backwards. His T-shirt had been pulled up over his head so that, according to the Correctional Investigator, when the shower was turned on, it must have felt remarkably like waterboarding.
He was pleading for help, frightened, crying. They turned the water off; then they turned it on again. Eventually, he was dragged out of the shower by his feet, motionless, unresponsive. By this time, he was having seizures. He had at least six seizures within half an hour. Eventually an ambulance was called, but too late. He died before midnight.
What happened then? Well, within the Correctional Service of Canada not much. There was a board of investigation, which is an internal CSC mechanism, which found that there had been 21 serious breaches of policy, but it made only four recommendations. Two of them were about learning and training. One was that Dorchester Penitentiary consider evaluating the safety features of its institutional stretchers — he was on a stretcher when he was put into an ambulance — and that it consider auditing its pepper spray procedures.
The Correctional Investigator finds that:
. . . the manner by which CSC investigates and reports on deaths in custody. . . is inherently flawed.
Given that CSC investigates itself largely on the basis of compliance with policy and procedure rather than accountability, most Boards of Investigation do not issue recommendations of national significance. Consequently, at the site level, the Office sees the same mistakes repeated over and over again.
He says that the CSC’s line of inquiry is:
. . . self-serving, unreflective and circular. . . .
And he observes:
. . . an investigative process that does not concern itself with accountability or prevention will invariably fail from repeated, and potentially, catastrophic failures in which the staff response was inadequate, flawed or inappropriate.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Fraser, I know this background is very important to your question, but would you please get to your question.
Senator Fraser: I did plead for your indulgence, colleagues.
The question is: Given this inherently flawed, unaccountable process, what has the government done to ensure that the Correctional Service will, in fact, establish an inquiry process that is accountable?