Nova Scotia

Veronica Park's prison death details kept from family

Correctional Service Canada won’t tell Veronica Park’s family how she died in one of its prisons last month in a case that echoes that of Ashley Smith, who choked to death in her isolation cell in 2007.

'We're just so lost here,' brother says of prison officials's silence on sister's death

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

Correctional Service Canada won't tell Veronica Park's family how the 38-year-old Newfoundland woman died in one of its prisons last month.

Park was serving time at the Nova Institution for Women in Truro, N.S., for robbery and breach of recognizance.

She began complaining of a sore throat in April and asked for medical help due to chest pain. The pain got worse, and on April 24, the 38-year-old Corner Brook woman died after being taken to hospital.

If conditions don't improve and don't change, Veronica will not be the last one.- Coralee Cusak-Smith

Her family wants to know what happened. Correctional Service Canada has told them an investigation is underway, but not much more than that.

"We're just so lost here, because finding answers has been difficult," said Gordon Park, her brother. 

Kim Pate of the Elizabeth Fry Society said prison officials should work closer with the woman's family.

"In addition to the anguish and grief of losing a loved one, a family should not have to go through the added torture of having to try and find out what actually happened," she said.

"They have the care and control of the family member, in this case Veronica, before she died — and the family is entitled to know what happened."

Echoes of Ashley Smith

Coralee Cusak-Smith's daughter, Ashley Smith, also died in custody. She choked to death in her isolation cell in 2007.

Her family fought for years to learn details of what happened, eventually getting the government to launch an inquest into her death.

"I hate to say it, but if conditions don't improve and don't change, Veronica will not be the last one," she said. "Without knowing the circumstances here, how can we know what should be changed and what should be different?"

CBC News asked Correctional Service Canada when the family might learn what caused Park's death.

"Correctional Service of Canada does not share information regarding the investigation with the next of kin," it said in response.

Park's family may now have to file an access to information request to learn how she died in custody.

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