Woman sues police, CFS for accusing her of killing toddler stepsister
Manslaughter charges against Jasmine Bushie were stayed nearly two years after charges filed
The stepsister of a toddler who died in 2014 says she has been stigmatized as a child killer in her home communities after she was wrongly charged with manslaughter.
In a statement of claim filed at Manitoba's Court of Queen's Bench last week, Jasmine Bushie, 22, says she wasn't even living with her mother when 21-month-old Kierra Elektra Star Williams died in July 2014.
She alleges RCMP and the Crown had no evidence she was linked to the death when she was charged with manslaughter in mid-January of 2015. The charges were stayed in early December of 2016.
Bushie is suing the RCMP for Charter of Rights and Freedoms violations, false imprisonment, wrongful arrest and negligence in the case. She's also suing Intertribal Child and Family Services for negligence.
None of Bushie's claims have been proven in court. Defendants in Manitoba have 20 days to file a statement of defence, while those outside the province have 40 days.
Bushie's stepfather, Daniel Williams, still faces charges of manslaughter and failing to provide the necessaries of life, and her mother, Vanessa Bushie, faces charges of second-degree murder and failing to provide the necessaries of life.
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Jasmine Bushie, 22, lived at her grandmother's home on Kinonjeoshtegon First Nation but would occasionally spend time with her mother on Peguis First Nation, the statement of claim says.
When her stepsister, Kierra, was born on Oct. 8, 2012, the baby was taken into Intertribal Child and Family Services (ICFS) care because the agency had already apprehended two other siblings the month prior, the statement says.
By July 2013, the three children were returned to Vanessa Bushie's home under a six-month supervision order. But in October of that year, Vanessa Bushie had a heart attack.
After the health scare, Child and Family Services workers were worried about Vanessa Bushie's ability to take care of her children, particularly the baby, so they asked Jasmine Bushie if she'd help out, the statement says. Jasmine Bushie told ICFS she wasn't living with her mother and wasn't in a position to take parental responsibility for the toddler.
However, in November 2013, ICFS and Jasmine Bushie agreed she'd be paid to do respite work at her mother's home, including cooking meals for the kids, doing their laundry and keeping the house in order.
The agreement said she would do this from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday to Friday, at $10.45 an hour, the statement says. The contract had an end date of Feb. 11, 2014.
In December, Jasmine Bushie told ICFS staff the arrangement wasn't working because of ongoing conflicts with her mother, the statement says, but ICFS workers convinced her to continue under the terms of the contract.
When the agreement expired in February, she stopped doing the work.
Didn't live at home when toddler died, lawsuit says
Jasmine Bushie lived between her mother's and grandmother's homes until July 14, 2014, when she completely stopped living with her mother on Peguis First Nation, the statement of claim says.
On July 16, RCMP were called to a hospital in Hodgson, Man., to investigate the death of Kierra Williams.
The next day, Jasmine Bushie was interviewed by RCMP. She told them she had previously done some work in her mother's house but had moved out days before, the statement says.
Some of Bushie's other siblings were also interviewed by RCMP and said they'd never seen Jasmine Bushie abuse Kierra Williams, the statement says.
An arrest warrant was issued for Jasmine Bushie on Jan. 19, 2015, and she was charged with manslaughter and failing to provide the necessities of life.
She was arrested the next day but told RCMP that she didn't understand why because she wasn't living in the family home and wasn't responsible for the toddler's care, the statement says.
- Charges against dead toddler's stepsister dropped
- Peguis First Nation toddler who died had been in CFS care
She was interrogated again before being detained at the Winnipeg Remand Centre for 16 days. She was only released on Feb. 6 after a copy of ICFS documents, which showed the agreement to clean her mother's house expired months before her sister's death, was finally disclosed to her lawyers, the statement says.
Jasmine Bushie maintained her innocence and there was no evidence linking her to her sister's death, but the RCMP and the Crown continued with the prosecution anyway, the statement of claim says.
The stigma from the charges led to death threats and Bushie had to quit her job and move to Winnipeg, the statement of claim says.
She also was forced to leave high school because her bail conditions meant she couldn't be in the presence of children under the age of 14, the statement says.
Violation of charter rights
During preparation for trial, Jasmine Bushie learned the RCMP did not suspect she was involved until ICFS gave them her name and told them she had done work for the family, the statement says.
ICFS also failed or refused to inform RCMP that the respite agreement had expired and Jasmine Bushie wasn't even living at the family home when her sister died, it says.
The Crown stayed the charges against Bushie on Dec. 5, 2016.
Bushie is seeking damages for loss of employment and income, loss of her home and moving costs, loss of her reputation in her community, loss of education and mental distress. She is also seeking damages for the 16 days of incarceration and the 22 months when she was subject to the terms of her recognizance.
The trial for Vanessa Bushie and Williams is expected to begin in fall 2017 or early 2018.