Stony inmate complained of opiate withdrawal before death: lawyer

One day before he was found dead inside Stony Mountain penitentiary, Dwayne Simard told his lawyer he was suffering from opiate withdrawal and thought he was dying.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/03/2021 (523 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

One day before he was found dead inside Stony Mountain penitentiary, Dwayne Simard told his lawyer he was suffering from opiate withdrawal and thought he was dying.

Now, lawyer Ethan Pollock wants to know if Simard’s pleas for help were answered; he’s calling on justice officials to provide disclosure showing whether Simard received the medical treatment he needed.

“There has to be some sort of paper trail linked to Mr. Simard from the time he came into custody to the time he (died),” Pollock said during a March 3 court hearing at which the Crown formally stayed a number of charges against Simard, two days after his death.

SUPPLIED
Dwayne Louis Simard is one of two Sagkeeng First Nation men to die in custody in less than a month.

“I want to look into what happened here, and I think his community deserves to know that as well,” Pollock told provincial court Judge Cindy Sholdice. “This was, in my estimation, an avoidable death, and it’s very sad. (Simard) had struggles, but he was a person.”

Simard, 37, was arrested Feb. 27 with two other men following an hours-long standoff at a home on McGee Street in Winnipeg. Simard had been convicted of aggravated assault and was sentenced in November 2017 to 32 months in prison. He was released in September 2019 but breached his parole two weeks later and at the time of his arrest, was wanted on a Canada-wide warrant.

Pollock said Simard was being held in a cell at the Winnipeg Police Service’s central processing unit when he talked to Simard by phone to discuss a possible bail plan the morning after his arrest.

“Near the end of our conversation, Dwayne told me he was going through some sort of opiate withdrawal, and said he felt as though he was dying,” Pollock told court. “He told me that he needed to see a doctor.”

Pollock said he called the central processing unit and told an officer who answered the phone that Simard should be taken to hospital immediately.

“I was advised that a paramedic would be attending. I don’t know if Mr. Simard was seen by a paramedic, I don’t know if Mr. Simard was taken to hospital, I don’t know if Mr. Simard was seen by a nurse. I’m very concerned that the needs of my client weren’t met.” – Lawyer Ethan Pollock in court

“I was advised that a paramedic would be attending,” Pollock told court. “I don’t know if Mr. Simard was seen by a paramedic, I don’t know if Mr. Simard was taken to hospital, I don’t know if Mr. Simard was seen by a nurse. I’m very concerned that the needs of my client weren’t met.

“He was in custody, and he wasn’t doing well and he died,” Pollock said. “He has a family, he has young children and they deserve answers. Everyone deserves answers.”

Asked to confirm whether city police had responded to a medical complaint from Simard, spokesperson Const. Jay Murray declined to comment and referred a reporter to the RCMP, which is investigating Simard’s death. RCMP spokeswoman Tara Seel said only that an investigation into Simard’s death is “ongoing” and that investigators are waiting for reports from the medical examiner’s office.

People who are taken in to police custody are often themselves members of vulnerable populations, including those who suffer from addictions, said lawyer Chris Gamby, communication director for the Criminal Defence Lawyers Association of Manitoba.

“They may be a perpetrator, but they may also be a victim of something else,” said Gamby, not commenting on the specifics of Simard’s case. “So when they come in, that should be the attitude (police) take.”

“They’re not necessarily going to go and see somebody about whatever their issue is. They see someone when they get picked up by police. It’s just something that goes completely unaddressed.” – Lawyer Chris Gamby

For many people with addictions who run afoul of the law, the only time they will participate in treatment is when they come into contact with police and corrections, Gamby said.

“They’re not necessarily going to go and see somebody about whatever their issue is,” he said. “They see someone when they get picked up by police. It’s just something that goes completely unaddressed.”

Simard is one of two Sagkeeng First Nation men to die in custody in less than a month. The Southern Chiefs Organization has called for a public inquiry.

“We’ve tried to have confidence that our citizens will be looked after within these institutions, and in this instance, it leaves us having a lot of questions about what were the circumstances surrounding the death of our citizens,” SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels told the Free Press last week.

William Ahmo, 45, died in hospital on Feb. 14, days after suffering severe injuries in an incident at Headingley Correctional Centre. Ahmo’s death is also being investigated by RCMP.

dean.pritchard@freepress.mb.ca

Dean Pritchard

Dean Pritchard
Courts reporter

Someone once said a journalist is just a reporter in a good suit. Dean Pritchard doesn’t own a good suit. But he knows a good lawsuit.

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