Ashley Smith videos renew advocate's call for better services
WARNING: This video contains scenes that may be disturbing to some viewers
Newly-released videos of Ashley Smith have renewed calls by New Brunswick's former youth advocate for improved mental health services for youth.
Bernard Richard says the videos are even worse than the hours of tape he viewed while investigating Smith's treatment at New Brunswick facilities.
"It really takes it to another level. And so it is much more severe, in my view," Richard said.
The videos, which were taken while Smith was in prison or being transferred between institutions, show the Moncton-raised teen in various stages of restraint and distress at the hands of workers in the prison system.
Corrections Canada had gone to court to try to block the videos from being made public, but lost the case and they were released Wednesday at a coroner's hearing into Smith's death.
In one of the videos, the 19-year-old is seen on an RCMP plane being transferred from a correctional service psychiatric facility in Saskatchewan to one in Quebec.
Smith is wearing two mesh hoods to stop her from spitting.
The RCMP co-pilot can be seen duct-taping her hands together and then to her seat. He then threatens to duct-tape Smith’s face if she does not behave.
In another video, surrounded by guards, Smith is flattened to a table with a riot shield, forcibly injected three times with a sedative and threatened with a fourth needle if she doesn't behave.
In 2008, Richard issued a call for action; a message he took to Parliament Hill. He said society needs to keep young people and the mentally ill out of jail, provide more mental health services for youth and earlier intervention.
Smith's tapes serve as a stark reminder of how urgently those reforms are needed, Richard said.
"This drives home that point with a vengeance. I think it clearly indicates that we have to do a better job than what we've been doing and progress on that front is much too slow."
Toronto lawyer Julian Falconer, who represents the family of Ashley Smith, says the teen's story is not uncommon.
"What this tells us, that we didn't know before, is that they don't have any tools. They don't have any knowledge. And they have absolutely no sense for how to deal with people with serious mental illness," Falconer said.
Smith was first charged with a criminal offence in March 2002, when she was 14 years old.
In the following year, she faced charges of causing a public disturbance, trespassing and assault, according to a report from the New Brunswick Office of the Ombudsman and Child and Youth Advocate.
Smith was first incarcerated at the age of 15 after an incident where she threw crab apples at a postal worker. She was convicted of multiple charges of breach of probation, common assault, trespassing and causing a disturbance.
On Oct. 19, 2007, Smith died from strangulation after tying ligatures to her neck in her cell at Grand Valley Institution for Women in Kitchener, Ont.
The coroner's hearing has been adjourned until Nov. 13.
The coroner's inquest is set to official start with a jury in January.