Nova Scotia

Correctional Service official told to ignore reporter's phone calls

Representatives with Correctional Service Canada co-ordinated to ignore questions following the death of an inmate at a Nova Scotia prison, internal documents show.

Veronica Park of Corner Brook died while in custody at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro

Veronica Park was serving a three-year sentence at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro, N.S., for robbery and breach of recognizance. (Facebook)

Representatives with Correctional Service Canada co-ordinated to ignore questions and suppress media coverage following the death of an inmate at a Nova Scotia prison, internal documents obtained by CBC News show.

Veronica Park, a 38-year-old woman from Corner Brook, N.L., died April 24 while serving a three-year sentence at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro for robbery and breach of recognizance.

In the days leading to her death, her family said Park complained of respiratory problems to prison staff.

Park's brother, Gordon Park, told CBC News the family has been frustrated with Correctional Service Canada, which has not shared many details about Park's death. They were told in order to learn the cause of her death, Park's family may have to file a request through the Access to Information Act.

CBC News also asked for details about the Park's death. When those questions weren't answered, CBC News filed a request for information to learn why.

"Any comment will serve to protract the media interest," said one email sent May 1 between two CSC media officials.

"I don't know why he [Brett Ruskin] would want an on-camera interview," wrote Etienne Chiasson, the CSC's Atlantic region media spokesperson, in an email the Monday following Park's death.

Chiasson later instructed a local representative to ignore media requests.

"One advice: if your phone rings and you suspect it's a reporter, you don't have to answer," he wrote.

"It is the weekend, and this is in no way an urgent matter. For them maybe, but not for us. Take the weekend off ;-)."

This statement was in response to the CBC's renewed calls for Correctional Service Canada to share Park's cause of death with her family.

The CBC's access to information request garnered 79 pages of internal emails, with redacted sections on nearly every page.

In an unrelated matter, during the period that these emails were being written and shared, the CSC issued a public tender seeking a company to train its representatives on how to deal with the media.

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