Protesters want answers about remand centre deaths

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Protesters at a rally outside the Winnipeg Remand Centre Wednesday demanded answers about the deaths of four inmates there so far this year.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 26/10/2016 (2118 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Protesters at a rally outside the Winnipeg Remand Centre Wednesday demanded answers about the deaths of four inmates there so far this year.

Two unidentified inmates died this month, on Oct. 25 and Oct. 12 — the third and fourth people to die there in 2016. The other two are Hollie Hall on March 1 and Errol Greene on May 1.

“It’s a controlled environment,” protester Cecil James said over a megaphone. “These people should be safe.”

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Protestors heald a rally Wednesday afternoon in front of the Winnipeg Remand Centre on Kennedy Street.

Greene died after suffering an epileptic seizure in custody, and his family says staff at the remand centre had denied him access to his epilepsy medication. They’ve called for an inquest into his death. The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner has said it’s still investigating Greene’s death and hasn’t called for a formal inquest yet. It says an inquest is only mandatory when a person in custody dies as a result of a violent act, undue means, or suddenly of unexpected cause.

Greene’s friends and family issued a press release Wednesday saying that some unnamed members of the Manitoba Government Employees Union have complained to them about a perceived lack of action by the MGEU leadership regarding deaths at the Winnipeg Remand Centre.

An anonymous tip line has been set up at 431-800-1300 and anyone with information on the deaths of the four inmates is asked to call.

“We’ve been in touch with members of MGEU who supplied us with that statement and set up that answering machine (tip line),” Stephane Doucet, a friend of Greene’s family, said in a telephone interview. “A large part of the people who organized the rally today are part of the group that’s working with Errol Greene’s family. Errol Greene’s partner Rochelle was at the meeting and was part of planning today’s rally as well.”

On Wednesday, the MGEU president issued a statement saying they’re waiting for answers and asked people not to jump to conclusions.

“The death of an inmate needs to be taken seriously,” MGEU president Michelle Gawronsky is quoted as saying.

“The province needs to clear the air – by bringing the investigations of these recent deaths to a conclusion, and by meeting with the families of these inmates,” it said. “Correctional Officers work under challenging, stressful, and often dangerous conditions. They take very seriously their professional responsibility to ensure a safe environment for both inmates and their co-workers. We ask Manitobans to reserve judgment until the facts are known.”

At the rally, James said the union’s stance is troubling when four of the people its members were supposed to take care of have died.

“The health and safety of prisoners affects the health and safety of the people who work there,” said James. His younger sister, Kinew James, died while in custody in Saskatoon at the regional psychiatric centre three years ago and his family is still waiting for answers, he said.

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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