Manitoba·CBC Investigates

Manitoba attorney general asks RCMP to review death of woman who overdosed in Brandon CAO's home

In addition to the request for an RCMP review, the Manitoba Liberals are calling on the province to perform an inquest into the death of Christine Mitchell, who overdosed in July, while living in the home of City of Brandon chief administrative officer Rod Sage.

Manitoba Liberals also calling for independent investigation into death of Christine Mitchell

Christine Mitchell died in July 2019, following an overdose she suffered while living in the home of City of Brandon chief administrative officer Rod Sage. (Christine Mitchell/Facebook)

Manitoba's attorney general has asked the RCMP to review the circumstances surrounding the death of a woman who overdosed in the home of Brandon's city manager, and the subsequent investigation by the city's police service.

The request from Manitoba's attorney general for an investigation into the death of Christine Mitchell was made last Friday, according to a Tamara King, a spokesperson for Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen.

News of the review, which began last week, comes after a CBC News investigation which revealed Mitchell, 30, overdosed on purple heroin while living at the home of Rod Sage, the City of Brandon's chief administrative officer, in July. Sage is also a non-voting member of the Brandon Police Board.

Mitchell's death was raised in the Manitoba Legislature on Thursday during question period by Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont, who called for an inquest and an RCMP review.

"We have an extraordinary situation where someone dies of an overdose at the home of somebody who sits on the police board in Brandon," Lamont said speaking to reporters after question period.

Cullen has asked the RCMP to investigate the death and probe how Brandon police handled the file. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

CBC News asked Cullen if he has any concerns about Brandon police investigating a death connected to the city's top bureaucrat.

"This is why we've asked the RCMP to review the circumstances around this situation and we look forward to their report," he responded. 

The Brandon Police Service confirmed it is still investigating Mitchell's death.

"My understanding is that the attorney general can make a request to an outside agency to oversee an investigation, or to review an investigation done by another agency," said BPS Sgt. Kirby Sararas.

She said Brandon police Chief Wayne Balcaen consulted with the attorney general in the last three weeks about this matter.

"We welcome this review just so that there is an open and transparent investigation into what work our officers have already done," said Sararas. 

Cullen said in question period that the province's justice department first learned about the death during the last week of September.

He told CBC after question period he's confident the investigations into Mitchell's death will be impartial.

"I have tremendous confidence in the RCMP and the Province of Manitoba. That's why we've asked them to do a review of the circumstances around that situation."

The minister said Manitoba's police watchdog has not been called in to investigate. 

The RCMP says the review is expected to be a lengthy process. 

"It is really in the early stages right now, so the only thing we would say is the review is ongoing," said RCMP Sgt. Paul Manaigre.

Liberals call for inquest into Mitchell's death

Lamont first called for the inquest and RCMP review with Liberal justice critic Jon Gerrard, in a letter to Cullen before Lamont raised it in question period. 

Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont wants an inquest called. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

Cullen responded by saying it's Manitoba's chief medical examiner who must call an inquest and not the attorney general.

Lamont told CBC there are answers an inquest can bring up that a police investigation won't.

"There needs to be a bigger picture of looking at this not just in terms of how she died but the circumstances of her addiction and whether she was failed by addictions services as much as whether she was failed by anything else."

Got a tip for CBC Manitoba's I-Team? Email or call the confidential tip line at 204-788-3744.

Three overdose deaths this year were not reported to Manitoba's medical examiner, as required by law. 2:49

About the Author

Caroline Barghout

Investigative Reporter, CBC Manitoba I-Team

Caroline began her career co-hosting an internet radio talk show in Toronto and then worked at various stations in Oshawa, Sudbury and Toronto before landing in Winnipeg in 2007. Since joining CBC Manitoba as a reporter in 2013, she has won an award for her work on crowded jails and her investigation into Tina Fontaine's death led to changes in the child welfare system. Email: caroline.barghout@cbc.ca

With files from Austin Grabish