An attorney for an inmate at the Stony Mountain Institution who died in custody last week said his client told him he was going to retire and that court statements said he felt like he was dying.
Now attorney Ethan Pollack is asking the court to release records showing whether his client, Dwayne Simard, received the medical treatment he needed.
Simard was returned to prison after his arrest on February 27 for violating the terms of his parole from a previous sentence. Pollack spoke at a hearing on March 3, two days after Simard’s death, that the charges against him should be dropped.
He told the court he spoke to Simard on February 28, the day before he was pronounced dead in prison.
“Towards the end of our conversation, Dwayne told me he was going through some form of opiate withdrawal and just said he felt like he was dying. He told me he needed to see a doctor,” Pollack told the court.
Pollack said he called the prison and asked that Simard be taken to a hospital. He was told that a medic would be there soon to take care of Simard, but he doesn’t know if he received medical attention before he died.
“I am very concerned that my client’s needs have not been met,” Pollack told the court. “He has a family, he has young children, and they deserve answers.”
Corrections Services Canada said in a statement to CBC News that nothing could be said about Simard’s case due to data protection laws.
“When a newly admitted inmate arrives at the Stony Mountain Institution, they are given an admission exam by a registered health care professional to determine their immediate and long-term health needs,” the statement said.
“When an inmate arrives with urgent needs, including withdrawal, a nurse will conduct an assessment and contact the on-call doctor.”
Two men from Sagkeeng recently died in prisons
Simard, 37, was pronounced dead on March 1st. Two days earlier, Simard was one of three people arrested after an hour-long hiatus at a house in Winnipeg’s Daniel McIntyre neighborhood where police were ordered to arrest two 37-year-old men for crimes that included parole violations .
Simard’s cause of death is not yet known, but Correctional Services Canada says they are conducting a review.
A native of Sagkeeng First Nation, Simard was one of two men from the ward who died in Manitoba prisons in the past few weeks. William Ahmo died on February 14, a week after he was hospitalized with serious injuries after RCMP cited an “incident” involving correction officers from the Headingley Correctional Institution.
The deaths have sparked calls for answers to questions from community leaders.
“They’re people,” said Sakgeeng boss Derrick Henderson. “Yes, they did something wrong, they pay their dues because they are in these facilities. But … there shouldn’t be a death penalty for them when they are there.”
Winnipeg Center MP Leah Gazan raised the issue of Simard and Ahmo’s deaths during Question Time on Tuesday.
“We need to act immediately to ensure that this colonial justice system is dead,” she said.
Community lawyer Mitch Bourbonniere works with Indigenous men involved in the criminal justice system. Although he didn’t know Simard, he said he had a lot in common with the men Bourbonniere helps.
Mitch Bourbonniere, a community attorney, said substance use problems with trauma are common. (Gary Solilak / CBC)
“I work with young men who come from very broken and wounded families, who have come across generations and whose substance use is very common in trauma. And so I understand Dwayne’s situation was that he had a disease that was drug and Alcohol is addict, “he said.
According to Bourbonniere, a dynamic has developed among supporters of incarcerated people to create an official lawyer for inmates.
“Because too often we have seen very, mysterious and unexplained deaths in people who are in custody. Be it in police custody, in remand prison, or in a provincial or federal institution.”