British Columbia

Caregiver, society charged after woman with disability dies in care

A caregiver and the society that hired her have each been charged after a woman with a developmental disability who was in their care was found dead more than a year ago, Coquitlam RCMP said.

Kinsight Community Society says it is 'shocked and saddened' over 54-year-old's death

Kinsight Community Society’s office is pictured in Port Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday. The society and one of its contracted caregivers have been criminally charged after a woman died in care in 2018. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A caregiver and the society that hired her have been criminally charged more than a year after a woman with a developmental disability died in their care.

The 54-year-old woman had been living with her caregiver before she was found dead in the caregiver's home on Oct. 13, 2018, RCMP said Wednesday.

Officers investigated and found the woman had not received "the necessaries of life" before her death, a statement said, meaning she didn't have adequate food, shelter, medical care or protection from harm.

Mounties did not specify the woman's cause of death. 

The caregiver, Astrid Charlotte Dahl, from Port Coquitlam, B.C., has been charged with criminal negligence causing death and failing to perform a legal duty to provide necessaries.

In a rare step, the society which hired Dahl as a contractor is also criminally charged. Kinsight Community Society faces its own count of failing to perform a legal duty to provide necessaries.

RCMP Cpl. Michael McLaughlin said the woman who died had a "severe" disability and required around-the-clock care. She had been in care for almost all of her life.

The officer was emotional as he spoke with reporters about the case on Wednesday. 

"I know my own father needed full-time, 24-hour care in the years and months before his own death. The people who took care of him were the closest I've ever met to saints. I can't imagine what the family was going through in a case like this."

Coquitlam RCMP Cpl. Michael McLaughlin speaks to reporters on Jan. 29, 2020, after announcing criminal charges laid after a woman was found dead her caregiver's home in 2018. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Society says it's 'shocked' by woman's death

The Kinsight society said Wednesday it was "shocked and saddened" to learn of the woman's death.

The woman had been living with her caregiver as part of the society's shared living services. A statement from Kinsight said it hires "qualified individuals" to provide the service with clients.

"This is the first time in the 65-year history of our organization that the death of an individual receiving our services has been the subject of a police investigation and criminal charges," the statement said, adding the society has "fully co-operated" with police.

"We are confident that all care and safety provisions for those we serve are being met."

Kinsight Community Society’s office is pictured in Port Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday. The society is a not-for-profit that provides services including employment and shared living in New Westminster, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Anmore and Belcarra. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

A Kinsight spokesperson said they would not confirm whether Dahl is still contracted by Kinsight for privacy reasons, but Cpl. McLaughlin said, to his knowledge, "there is no longer any care associated with the house or with Astrid Dahl."

McLaughlin said Mounties' "exhaustive" 15-month investigation involved more than 20 officers and looked into the care the victim received "in the years and months leading up to her death."

"This is a very sad situation. We know these charges can't bring the victim back, but perhaps they give a voice to a vulnerable person who couldn't speak for herself," McLaughlin wrote in a statement.

"As police we have a duty to protect all vulnerable people, whether they are in care or not. If you have information about neglect or abuse that could be criminal, please don't hesitate to call your police of jurisdiction."

RCMP Cpl. Michael McLaughlin announces charges against caregiver Astrid Charlotte Dahl on Jan. 29, 2020, after a woman was found dead in Coquitlam, B.C. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Both Dahl and the director of Kinsight are due in court on March 9. The director was served as a representative of the society and is not being named because she is not charged as an individual.

McLaughlin said approving a criminal charge against a society is an "unusual" step for the Crown to take.

Kinsight is a registered not-for-profit. It receives public funding from BC Housing, Fraser Health, the provincial Ministry of Children and Family Development and the federal government.

The organization's website said it provides services including employment and shared living in New Westminster, Coquitlam, Port Coquitlam, Port Moody, Anmore and Belcarra.

McLaughlin said the RCMP has no evidence to suggest any further allegations of negligence or abuse related to Kinsight.

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