Manitoba

Stony Mountain inmate told lawyer he was going through withdrawal, feared he was dying one day before death

The lawyer for an inmate at Stony Mountain Institution who died in custody last week says his client told him he was going through withdrawal and felt like he was dying, according to court statements. 

Dwayne Simard, 37, was found dead in his cell at Stony Mountain Institution two days after he was arrested

One day before he was found dead in his cell at Stony Mountain Institution, Dwayne Simard told his lawyer that he was going through opiate withdrawal and feared he was dying. (Facebook/Tanya Sittler)

The lawyer for an inmate at Stony Mountain Institution who died in custody last week says his client told him he was going through withdrawal and felt like he was dying, according to court statements. 

Now, lawyer Ethan Pollock is calling on the court to release records showing whether his client, Dwayne Simard, received the medical treatment he needed.

Simard had been brought back to the prison after he was arrested on Feb. 27 for violating conditions of his parole from a previous sentence. Pollock spoke at a hearing on March 3 — two days after Simard's death — to have the charges against him dropped. 

He told the court he spoke to Simard on Feb. 28, one day before he was pronounced dead at the prison.

"Near the end of our conversation, Dwayne told me that he was going through some sort of opiate withdrawal and just said he felt as though he was dying. He told me he needed to see a doctor," Pollock told the court.

Pollock said he called the prison and asked for Simard to be taken to a hospital. He was told a paramedic would be there soon to tend to Simard, but doesn't know whether he received any medical attention before he died.

"I'm very concerned the needs of my client weren't met," Pollock told the court. "He has family, he has young children and they deserve answers."

Corrections Services Canada told CBC News in a statement it can't say anything about Simard's case because of privacy laws.

"When a newly admitted inmate arrives at Stony Mountain Institution, they receive an admission assessment by a registered health care professional to determine their immediate and long-term health needs," the statement said.

"When an inmate arrives with urgent needs, including withdrawal, a nurse will conduct an assessment and will contact the on-call physician."

Two men from Sagkeeng died in prisons recently

Simard, 37, was pronounced dead on March 1. Two days earlier, Simard was one of three people arrested following an hours-long standoff at a house in Winnipeg's Daniel McIntyre neighbourhood, where police had been called to arrest two 37-year-old men for offences that included probation violations.

The cause of Simard's death is not yet known, but Correctional Services Canada says it's doing a review.

Simard was from Sagkeeng First Nation, and was one of two men from the community who died while being held in Manitoba prisons in recent weeks. William Ahmo died on Feb. 14, a week after being taken to hospital with serious injuries after what RCMP have called an "incident" involving corrections officers at Headingley Correctional Institution.

The deaths have sparked calls for answers from community leaders.

"These are people," said Sakgeeng Chief Derrick Henderson. "Yeah they did something wrong, they're paying their dues, being in these institutions. But ... it shouldn't be a death penalty for them when they're in there."

Winnipeg Centre MP Leah Gazan raised the issue of Simard and Ahmo's deaths during question period on Tuesday.

"We need immediate action to ensure that no more lives will be taken at the hands of this colonial justice system," she said.

Community advocate Mitch Bourbonniere works with Indigenous men involved in the criminal justice system. Although he didn't know Simard, he shares many things in common with the men Bourbonniere helps, he said.

Mitch Bourbonniere, a community advocate, said that issues of substance use are common with trauma. (Gary Solilak/CBC )

"I work with young men that come from very broken and wounded families, that have occurred generationally and substance use is very common with trauma. And this is my understanding of Dwayne's situation, was that he had an illness, which is drug and alcohol dependency," he said.

Bourbonniere says momentum has been building among advocates for incarcerated people to create an official advocate for inmates.

"Because we've seen too often very, kind of, mysterious and unexplained deaths with people that are in custody. Be it in police custody, at the remand centre, or in a provincial or federal institution."

Questions raised about death of inmate at Stony Mountain

CBC News Manitoba

5 months ago
2:41
The lawyer for Dwayne Simard, an inmate who died in custody last week, says his client told him he was going through withdrawal and felt like he was dying, according to court statements. 2:41

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cameron MacLean

Online Reporter

Cameron MacLean is a journalist living in Winnipeg, where he was born and raised. He has more than a decade of experience covering news in the city and across the province, working in print, radio, television and online.

With files from Nelly Gonzalez

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