‘WE HAVE TO GET SOME JUSTICE’
Grieving mother hopes A coroner’s inquest into her daughter’s 2015 death in remand ensures no other families face A similar situation
Sherri Chartrand says her daughter could still be alive today.
Chartrand’s daughter, Breanna Kannick, died at the White Birch Remand Unit in Regina on Aug. 20, 2015.
“We have to get some justice, and hope no one ever goes through it again,” Chartrand said this week. “I don’t want to put another family through this.”
Kannick’s mother travelled from Manitoba with her sister to attend the inquest.
As testimony wrapped up Thursday, scheduled to resume on May 14, Chartrand said the experience has been hard.
“It was exhausting, emotionally for myself and my family,” she said.
For almost three years, Chartrand has questioned the quality of medical care her daughter was given when she arrived at White Birch on the afternoon of Monday, Aug. 17, 2015.
Almost immediately after Kannick’s death, her mother told the Leader-Post her daughter should have been on medical watch to help aid drug withdrawals, and alleged employees at White Birch were calling Kannick “pukey.”
A correctional worker testifying this week said some of her co-workers described Kannick as “pukey.”
On that Monday night, Kannick was given an initial medical assessment and described by a registered psychiatric nurse as “healthy” and “pleasant,” but she was withdrawing from an opioid addiction.
At the time there was no standard practice for treating opioid withdrawals.
One correctional worker described Kannick’s condition as being like a “walking skeleton.”
The nurse admitted she didn’t fill in the entire intake form and could have made mistakes on it. The 21-year-old Kannick requested more than once to see a doctor or get a hospital bed, but never did.
Kannick was supposed to be going to court on the day she died.
After being told more than once by guards that she had to get up, she did — but fell and hit her head on a stainless steel shelf in her cell. Less than an hour later, she was pronounced dead.
Kannick was in a cell with a camera when the fall happened, but nobody who testified this week saw it occur.
The guard tasked with monitoring the cameras was on the phone when Kannick fell, saying Thursday working in what is known as the “pod,” where the cameras are located, generally involves “too much to do and not enough manpower.”
Moments after that phone call, she saw Kannick lying on her back on the cell floor.
Over an intercommunication system, she told Kannick to get ready for court, something she testified feeling “horrible” about, saying that had she seen the fall she would have had a medical professional attend to Kannick “immediately.”
Soon after falling, Kannick was throwing up a black substance described as looking “almost like coffee beans” and an ambulance was called. After she was worked on briefly, Kannick was pronounced dead.
“We’re just going to try and prevent it from happening again, and hopefully it doesn’t,” Chartrand said, adding the family will continue to fight for justice for Kannick and workers will “phone 911 if they have to.”
A Ministry of Justice investigation into Kannick’s death resulted in about $400,000 in added funding to increase nursing staff and pay for a doctor to be on site.
An opioid withdrawal protocol is being piloted by the province, and there are posters up at correctional centres pointing to the signs of withdrawal.
Section 20 of The Coroners Act states that the chief coroner shall hold an inquest into the death of a person who dies while an inmate at a jail or a correctional facility, unless the coroner is satisfied that the person’s death was due entirely to natural causes and was not preventable. The purpose of an inquest is to provide a public hearing to examine in detail the events surrounding a death.
In addition to establishing who died, when and where the individual died, the medical cause of death and the manner of death, a six-person coroner’s jury may make recommendations to prevent similar deaths.
For almost three years, Sherri Chartrand has questioned the care her daughter, Breanna Kannick, received in jail before she died.