PEI·Exclusive

Family of man who died in P.E.I. jail says inquest is not necessary 

The family of a man who died at P.E.I.'s Provincial Correctional Centre says they don’t believe an inquest into his death is necessary.

‘An inquest is not going to make him come back,’ says Maureen Poirier

Kenny Hoddinott, seen here with his children, Courtney, Andrew, and Britney. Maureen Poirier says Hoddinott was a good dad, who loved his children more than anything else in the world. (Submitted by Maureen Poirier)

The family of a P.E.I. man who died at the Provincial Correctional Centre says they don't believe an inquest into his death is necessary.

Kenny Hoddinott, who was originally from Shoe Cove, N.L., died on Dec. 16. He was 47. 

Maureen Poirier was married to Hoddinott for 13 years, and they raised three children. The couple's twin daughters are now 18, and their son is 21. 

Hoddinott was a chronic alcoholic who had struggled with the disease for decades, Poirier told CBC News in an interview this week. 

She said the death of her ex-husband, with whom she kept in close contact after their separation, was heartbreaking — and seeing him become the centre of a very public discussion involving politicians and the media has made it even more difficult for her and her children. 

"If he was a man that was healthy and had ended up in jail for whatever reason and in the morning he was dead, you'd wonder what happened," Poirier said of Hoddinott, who had been arrested for public intoxication in the hours before his death.

"I'm kind of glad that he died in jail and not die under a tree and people go by and say, 'Oh that's just a bum sleeping,' and he could have been there two, three days before someone found him."

Maureen Poirier was married to Hoddinott for 13 years. She says his death was heartbreaking, but doesn't think an inquest is necessary. (Maureen Poirier)

Poirier said at least he didn't die alone; corrections staff had been regularly checking on him. "And an inquest is not going to make him come back." 

Death came after 'cardiac event'

Justice Minister Bloyce Thompson said Hoddinott died that December night as a result of "a cardiac event." 

In an interview with CBC News on Tuesday, he said correctional staff "did everything they could" to save the man when he was found in an unresponsive condition, including performing CPR.

But it was no use and he was eventually pronounced dead. 

Minister of Justice and Public Safety Bloyce Thompson says an inquest could provide transparency and help prevent future tragedies. (CBC News/Kirk Pennell)

The coroner had originally said an inquest into Hoddinott's death was not necessary, but Thompson said he was going to call one anyway, using his power as minister as spelled out in the Coroners Act.

'There's a lot of questions'

"I think the public deserves to know the circumstances around it, and I am willing to call this inquest," said Thompson. 

"There's a lot of questions … when you have an incident like this, where someone loses their life in custody. I think it's the best for transparency for all Islanders."

Kenny Hoddinott was proud of his twin girls, Courtney, left, and Britney, right. His ex-wife says he paraded them around the hospital when they were born 18 years ago. (Submitted by Maureen Poirier)

The minister said his heart goes out to the Hoddinott family, and he hopes an inquest provides clarity to help prevent future deaths. 

"It is more than just our justice system; it's our social system, it's our health care. It's a big picture that we can share what comes out of this — and whatever recommendations come from the coroner, we can use to make sure this never happens again," said Thompson. 

'His death was not a big mystery'

Hoddinott's daughter, Britney, didn't feel comfortable doing an interview.

But she sent a text to CBC News, in which she agreed with her mother's position that an inquest into her dad's death is not necessary.

Kenny Hoddinott, left, with his father, George, and his son, Andrew. (Submitted by Maureen Poirier)

In it, she wrote: "My father just passed away, his family is still grieving. There were so many other ways to talk about what had happened. An inquest was not necessary. His death was not a big mystery needing to be solved. I am still a student, trying to figure things out. I didn't need to be the girl whose dad died in jail."

Poirier said Hoddinott was a good dad, who loved his children more than anything else in the world. She said he wanted to be there for his children but the alcoholism stood in the way. 

"Even though he couldn't take care of them, he certainly loved them. They were his world." 

In and out of treatment 

In Poirier's opinion, people working within the provincial network of services did everything they could to help her ex-husband.   

That included stints at addictions centres in Ontario and New Brunswick. She said Hoddinott was in and out of such facilities more than 20 times in the past 10 years. 

The thing with addictions is unless the person is ready to admit that they have one and that they want to quit, it doesn't matter how many hands are out there to help them. They have to want to help themselves.— Maureen Poirier

"It's awful how addictions can take over a person's life," said Poirier.

"He couldn't say enough about how good the people were at the shelter, and the police, and the jail. I guess he was there more often than others, just more for his safety than anything else. But they were always good to him."

Poirer said police officers would even take Hoddinott to addiction centres, if he didn't have a drive. 

"The thing with addictions is unless the person is ready to admit that they have one and that they want to quit, it doesn't matter how many hands are out there to help them. They have to want to help themselves."     

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Wayne Thibodeau

Prince Edward Island

Wayne Thibodeau is a reporter/editor with CBC Prince Edward Island. He has worked as a reporter, editor, photographer and video journalist in print, digital and TV for more than 20 years. He can be reached at Wayne.Thibodeau@CBC.ca

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