By Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press
WINNIPEG – Errol Greene’s widow says she listened on the phone as her husband, an epileptic, suffered a seizure while telling her he was being denied medication inside the Winnipeg Remand Centre.
Greene let the phone drop, fell to the floor, and later died in hospital.
His widow, Rochelle Pranteau, is hoping an inquest scheduled to start Monday will find out what happened and prevent other deaths.
“I want justice for other families going through the same thing as my family. I want to expose the truth about what really happens on the inside, how poorly people are treated,” Pranteau said in a brief written statement provided by her lawyer.
Greene, 26, was one of five people who died after being taken to the remand centre in 2016. He had been arrested for breaching a probation order not to drink alcohol.
Waiting for a bail hearing, Greene was on the phone with Pranteau May 1, 2016, when he complained that he wasn’t being allowed access to his epilepsy medication, the family’s lawyer, Corey Shefman, said.
“He told Rochelle that he hadn’t been given his medication … and during that conversation, he did in fact start having a seizure,” Shefman said.
“Rochelle was forced to listen as he had a seizure and at first the inmates responded to help him and then eventually the guards responded to help him as well.”
An autopsy showed Greene had a low, or “subtherapeutic,” level of anti-convulsion medication in his system.
Pranteau was left to raise the couple’s four children on her own.
One area of focus for the inquest, which will be guided by a provincial court judge, is how inmate medication is handled.
The John Howard Society has said inmates cannot keep medication they have on them when they enter the facility, and must see a member of the remand centre’s medical team to get a new prescription.
The union that represents Manitoba correctional officers has said there are shortcomings that need to be addressed, including overcrowding at facilities across the province. A legislature committee was told recently that the jail population had jumped by seven per cent since the spring.
Unlike public inquiries, inquests are limited in scope and examine individual cases. The mandate for this inquest has been expanded slightly, Shefman said, to look at whether racism was a factor. Greene was Indigenous.
“It’s certainly Rochelle’s belief — and it’s our position — that the systemic racism that infuses our entire justice system played a role,” Shefman said.
“Nobody is going to be convicted here. There’s no blame that’s going to be laid, but what we are going to get, hopefully, is the truth.”