Grieving mother not told nature of misconduct in probe of baby's death: lawyer
'Losing a child is every family's nightmare,' lawyer says
The lawyer for a woman whose child's death investigation was allegedly breached by an anti-vaccine Ottawa police detective going rogue says police only notified the grieving mother of a "vague privacy breach" on Friday afternoon.
Erin Durant said her client was notified about the breach in the Ottawa police's still-open sudden death investigation of her infant. CBC News is not naming the woman.
It had resulted in a chief's complaint and was being investigated by the service, Durant said an officer told the woman.
The baby was less than a year old when they suddenly died in 2021. Durant said her client was told there were multiple cases affected by the breach but police refused to give her any more information.
They did give her the number for victim support services, Durant said.
CBC News first reported on Monday the misconduct allegations against Det. Helen Grus, a constable in the sexual assault and child abuse unit who is suspended amid an ongoing disciplinary investigation.
According to sources, Grus allegedly accessed case files of newborn and infant death investigations to which she wasn't assigned and inquired with the coroner about whether the parents of babies who had died unexpectedly during the pandemic were vaccinated against COVID-19.
Sources also described Grus as holding anti-mask and anti-vaccine views in the workplace. CBC News has learned she was one of fewer than 10 Ottawa police officers placed on unpaid leave after the service imposed a mandatory vaccine policy for all employees.
CBC News went to the service for comment on the allegations against Grus on March 24 and gave Ottawa police a next-day deadline.
One of those questions was whether police had notified all of the families in the cases that were allegedly accessed by Grus.
Client re-traumatized: lawyer
In a statement sent March 25 at 4:06 p.m., the service said: "In the course of any investigation, should the personal information of individuals be inappropriately accessed by OPS members, we reach out directly to the individual to advise them of this breach and provide supports."
In the case of Durant's client, that only happened Friday afternoon and not in the nearly two intervening months since the officer was first suspended.
"Losing a child is every family's nightmare," Durant said.
Now, to find out about an investigation months after it started, be largely left in the dark, still face the ongoing provincially mandated investigation into her infant's death and only learn the nature of the breach through a news article has left her client confused and frustrated.
The woman wonders, too, if this disciplinary investigation will prolong what has already been an excruciating wait until police are able to close the file on her baby's death.
Durant said her client is considering what her legal rights and remedies are in the case.
To date, no disciplinary charges have been laid against Grus.