Family looking for answers after suicide at Laval, Que., immigration holding centre
Guard left Bryan Stone alone for 18 minutes and he hanged himself in shower
Denise Thole says her brother, Bryan Stone, was a loving person. "He was the best brother I could have asked for," said Thole. "[He] loved adventures and took me on some in my younger years, and I have great memories of that."
But she would like some answers about what happened to him.
Stone died by suicide while he was supposed to be under a 24-hour suicide watch in January of 2022. The 56-year-old from Cincinnati was detained at the federal immigration holding centre in Laval about six weeks earlier, awaiting deportation to the United States.
"You just think 'How can this happen?'" said Thole. "You have a company in there, and their number one job is to keep their eye on someone, and they didn't do that. They failed."
The coroner's report into Stone's death and court documents fill in some of the blanks about his life — and subsequent death.
In her report, coroner Denyse Langelier wrote that Stone attempted suicide on Jan. 24, 2022. He told a doctor that if he were sent back to the U.S. and could not see his son, he would kill himself.
The doctor's notes from that attempt reveal that Stone was depressed and anxious. He had lost his home and friends and he could no longer see his son. The doctor recommended he be put on 24-hour watch.
18 minutes unsupervised
Four days later, during a shift change, a guard from the private security company hired to work at the holding centre left Stone alone while he was in the shower. Stone used his towel to hang himself from the shower faucet.
"Mr. Stone took advantage of the security guards' non-supervision for 18 minutes to hang himself in the shower," wrote coroner Langelier in her report, which she signed off on last October. "This death could have been avoided if the supervision had been adequate."
Difficult past in Quebec
Stone, who was originally from Cincinnati, first came to Quebec about 16 years ago.
According to Thole, he met a woman here and had a son with her soon after. But in recent years, he had had less contact with his son.
Stone's deportation order and route to the immigration holding centre in Laval was a long one.
Federal court records show that Stone arrived in Canada in 2006.
Thole says he joined a rugby club and tried to establish himself as a food and tourism photographer.
He and the child's mother fell out after the birth of their son. He was charged and convicted of assaulting the woman. He received a three-year suspended sentence and in 2016 was ordered to leave Canada.
He applied to return to Canada in 2019 on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. But in November 2019, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada refused his application.
It's not clear when Stone returned to Canada, but Thole remembers one specific conversation with him after his return.
"I don't know exactly where, I just know it was a trek on foot," said Thole. "[He] walked over the border through the mountains, through the streams, through the forests, through the woods."
Thole does not know however what led to his being detained at the Laval immigration holding centre that resulted in his death.
The coroner did not make any recommendations after investigating Stone's death, noting in her report that the Canada Border Services Agency disciplined the guard who left Stone alone.
Among the steps that CBSA implemented, the coroner noted the following:
- review the layout of bathrooms and showers and how fixtures are attached.
- give mental health training to security guards.
- increase availability of mental health professionals.
- modify the suicide prevention guide and priorities for visual surveillance.
Most detention stays last 2 days: minister
The federal minister responsible for public safety, Marco Mendicino, offered his condolences to Stone's family when questioned about the death. He said the federal government is working on reforms to immigration detention.
"There is an ongoing focus to make sure that we continue to reduce the use of immigration detention, which is a last resort," said Mendicino. He said most people detained at the country's detention centres stay for no more than two days.
In an email response, CBSA said once medical staff identify a mental health issue, all employees, whether staff or contracted guard services, must follow the guidelines provided by the medical staff.
That did not happen in Stone's case, and Thole is perplexed. She still doesn't know how her big brother was left alone when he was supposed to be under constant surveillance.
"Just four days prior, an attempted suicide. How was he not watched four days later, taken back to the facility" asks Thole. "And especially for 18 minutes. Where was the failure and the breakdown there?"
If you or someone you know is struggling, here's where to get help:
- Talk Suicide Canada: 1-833-456-4566 (phone) | 45645 (text between 4 p.m. and midnight ET).
- Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 (phone), live chat counselling on the website.
- Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis centre.
- This guide from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health outlines how to talk about suicide with someone you're worried about.