Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Probe into Cell Death of Troubled Teen Groans under Weight of Legal Battles

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Probe into Cell Death of Troubled Teen Groans under Weight of Legal Battles

Article excerpt

Fight over 'shocking' cell videos resumes


TORONTO - The labyrinthine probe into the cell death of troubled teenager Ashley Smith five years ago resumes Tuesday amid legal wrangling over the scope of the inquest and whether the public can see disturbing surveillance videos.

The wrangling, which has resulted in numerous motions, is again threatening to derail the inquest, which was scheduled to begin hearing evidence in January.

Federal correctional authorities threw the latest curve ball by calling on presiding coroner, Dr. John Carlisle, to ban public disclosure of videos of Smith's treatment.

Julian Falconer, who speaks for Smith's family, blasted the government's position as a "state coverup," and said he planned to put the videos on the public record as part of a separate battle over what the inquest should examine.

"If Correctional Services has its way, we will simply never get to the key questions, because they will have cut us off at the pass," Falconer said Monday.

"The essential question is what the various doctors and prison officials in the various provinces did to Ashley."

In October 2007, Smith, 19, choked to death at the Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., after repeated bouts of self-harm.

She had spent her final year in solitary confinement. She was shunted 17 times among nine different prisons in five provinces with little treatment for her mental illness.

Among other things, the videos Ottawa wants sealed show Smith being physically restrained for hours at a time. At one point, she was strapped to a gurney in a wet security gown for hours, records show.

The videos also show staff at the Joliette Institution in Montreal giving Smith intravenous drugs without her consent. On one occasion, guards in riot gear surrounded the handcuffed Smith as she was injected.

Kim Pate, executive director of the Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies, called the videos she saw "shocking and disturbing. …

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