British Columbia

Prison guard files murder trauma claim

WorkSafeBC has accepted a trauma claim filed by a prison guard who witnessed a notorious B.C. prison murder, documents show.
A correctional officer walks past the main gate to the Mountain Institution in Agassiz, B.C. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)

WorkSafeBC has accepted a trauma claim filed by a prison guard who witnessed a notorious B.C. prison murder, documents show.

Serial killer Michael Wayne McGray strangled his cellmate Jeremy Phillips to death at Mountain Institution in Agassiz in November 2010.

According to a WorkSafeBC review, the prison guard making the claim was one of those who responded to the incident, which he described as being like "a horror movie".

"He reported that the door to the cell was open; the inmate’s body was blue and puffy, and the worker heard that the inmate had been dead for nine hours," said the document.

The guard wasn't first on scene, but he claimed he saw enough to seed trauma that surfaced two years later following  - among other things - a beating that left another inmate in a vegetative state.

Gord Robertson of the Union of Canadian Correctional Officers said the guard's experience was unacceptable.

"A murder, a riot, threats of harm, threats of being raped... are not and should not be accepted terms of condition of employment for our staff," he said.

"We're working with the people that the rest of society don't want to deal with, and we need the support of the public to recognize that when we do this and we need assistance, we should be getting it."

According to the WorkSafeBC documents, Corrections Canada fought the claim, saying such incidents weren't unexpected in a prison.

But a review officer sided with the guard, saying the murder was "emotionally shocking".

Robertson says violence is on the rise in Canada's prisons, as are claims like this one.

Corrections Canada was not available for comment.

With files from the CBC’s Jason Proctor