November 1, 2012
Ashley Smith prison video played at coroner's inquest
By Kristy Kirkup Parliamentary Bureau
Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the suicide of a New Brunswick teenager who strangled herself in prison while guards watched a "terrible tragedy," but said the government would stay out of an Ontario coroner's inquest.
"The Ashley Smith case is obviously a terrible tragedy and information has come to light that is completely unacceptable to the way Corrections Canada is supposed to do business," Harper said in the Commons Thursday. "At the same time, there is a coroner's inquest underway. There are arguments between lawyers on some of the procedural matters and we will let those get resolved in due course."
But interim Liberal leader Bob Rae said the federal government has taken a position that is in conflict with "the interests of the truth and the interests of the (Smith) family."
Graphic prison video, showing footage of prison guards duct-taping Smith to a chair and strapping her down for hours in wet clothes, were made public during the inquest for the first time Wednesday.
The video was shown after the court rejected the objections of the Correctional Service of Canada.
"In her last year of life, she was shunted 17 times among nine different prisons in five provinces with very little treatment for her mental illness," Rae said. "In the coroner's inquest which is now underway, the federal government has consistently taken the position that the jurisdiction of the coroner has to be restricted, that they cannot look at videos."
Smith, 19, strangled herself with a cloth on Oct. 19, 2007, at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., as guards watched. The guards were allegedly told not to intervene.
Smith had been in and out of jail numerous times since she was 13 years old. During her last incarceration, which lasted just less than a year, Smith was moved to 17 different locations across several provinces and remained mostly in solitary confinement.
Smith's family has argued correctional staff continuously moved her to skirt regulations to limit confinement to 60 days without a psychiatric assessment.
- with files from Kevin Connor
On Twitter: @kkirkup