Families, friends of Wettlaufer's victims band together ahead of inquiry

A number of family members and close friends of victims of former nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer have banded together to seek legal standing at the upcoming public inquiry into the case.

47 applicants will try to convince the commission to give them a seat at the table during the inquiry

Justice Eileen Gillese listens to the public at the first of three community meetings scheduled in Woodstock and London in October in advance of the provincial inquiry into the safety and security of residents in long-term care. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

A number of family members and close friends of victims of former nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer have banded together to seek legal standing at the upcoming public inquiry into the case.

They join dozens of other applicants, including healthcare unions, long-term care homes and private individuals who are seeking to participate in the inquiry into actions of the serial killer, who murdered eight of her patients. 

Commissioner Eileen Gillese, the top Ontario court judge picked to lead the inquiry, has set aside two days of hearings at the Elgin County Courthouse in St. Thomas, Ont., where applicants will seek standing at the upcoming formal inquiry. 

Standing is legal jargon for the ability to participate in the inquiry. Parties with standing will get the ability to call and question witnesses when the formal inquiry gets underway. 

Among those applying for standing at the upcoming inquiry are at least five relatives and close friends of seniors who were murdered by serial killer Elizabeth Wettlaufer. They are represented by Toronto lawyer Alex Van Kralingen. 

Families, friends lawyer up together

Van Kralingen said the group has decided to band together because they realized they were aligned in terms of their values and for "efficiency purposes."
Alex Van Kralingen is the Toronto lawyer representing five people who are either relatives or 'close loved ones' of the seniors who were victims of serial killer Elizabeth Wettlaufer. (Van Kralingen and Keenberg LLP)

"They're going to be asking for the government to fund them and they think there is value in not having an overlap of lawyers," he said. "They recognize that the public purse is going to used, in part, to fund this inquiry and they wanted to be respectful of that." 

The commission can offer a subsidy for the legal fees of parties with standing of up to $192 an hour.

Van Kralingen said his clients are looking for answers to questions that have hung over the Wettlaufer case since the beginning, including a fulsome accounting of what actually happened when Wettlaufer carried out her killings undetected during a seven year spree from 2007 and 2014.

"The criminal proceedings and Miss Wettlaufer's elocution were helpful to a certain extent, but in certain ways it wasn't helpful," he said.

Limiting deadly drugs to be examined

Elizabeth Wettlaufer killed eight people with massive doses of insulin, the lawyer representing five of her victims loved ones says new ways of tracking or limiting deadly drugs needs to be examined by the inquiry. (Reed Saxon/The Associated Press)

"It wasn't helpful to understand the relationship between what we think are systemic factors, Miss Wettlaufer's relationships with her employers. Particularly when one employer fired her and another one hired her," Van Kralingen said.

He also said his clients intend to shed more light on the former nurse's relationship with the provincial nursing regulator, the Ontario College of Nurses.

Wettlaufer operated undetected at a number of nursing homes in southwestern Ontario by injecting her victims with lethal doses of insulin while working as a nurse on the night shift between 2007 and 2014. 

Van Kralingen said the families he represents will also try to steer the inquiry into looking at how certain drugs are tracked and regulated inside long-term care facilities. 

"It's a serious concern of the families," he said. "These are not people who used insulin, but it appears insulin was used in each of these cases because it was practically untraceable." 

"A fair conversation I think should be around ease of access of drugs like this, which could mask the intent of someone who is trying to commit some really awful crimes." 

Wettlaufer inquiry participation hearings:

Where: Elgin County Courthouse, 4 Wellington Street, St Thomas, Ont. 

When: Tuesday and Wednesday, December 12 and 13, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

About the Author

Colin Butler

Video Journalist

Colin Butler is a veteran CBC reporter who's worked in Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Toronto, Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton and London, Ont. Email: colin.butler@cbc.ca