Jury makes decision in Ontario inquest. death of inmate

WARNING: This story contains references to suicide.

A four-person jury has rendered a decision in the coroner’s inquest into the death in prison of Delilah Blair in Ontario.

The coroner’s council is reviewing all potential recommendations before they are made public on Thursday evening.

Blair died by hanging while detained at the South West Detention Center in Windsor, Ontario on May 21, 2017. She was in the mental health unit.

The jury heard that Blair had made at least two written requests to speak with his mother, Selina McIntyre, in the weeks before his death. McIntyre lived more than 4,000 kilometers away in Hay River, Northwest Territories, in the weeks before his death.

Blair filled out this inmate request form asking to speak with her mother on May 7, 2017, two weeks before she died. Prison staff did not complete the response section, so it is unclear what action, if any, was taken. (coroner’s inquest)

These demands were not met, and McIntyre testified that the first time she even knew her daughter was in jail was when someone called to say she was dead.

The family’s most important recommendation of all those offered relates to an inmate’s access to call loved ones, said Christa Big Canoe, the family’s attorney and legal director of Indigenous Legal Services.

She said phone use should not be seen as a privilege and access to a phone should be a priority for inmates.

« My daughter was going to say something to me and I will never hear those words from her. It seemed like she was silenced for some reason, » McIntyre previously told CBC News.

Kate Forget, co-lawyer to the coroner and legal counsel for the Ministry of the Attorney General’s Aboriginal Justice Division, underscored the importance of the issue during closing remarks Thursday.

« Knowing that she made this request while in a women’s mental health unit by today’s standards would be considered segregation, » Forget said.

« [It] makes it all the more heartbreaking. »

The inquest heard from 17 witnesses over nine days. Lawyers involved in the proceedings offered 47 recommendations to the jury.

More soon.


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