A Dalhousie law professor is calling on the Nova Scotia government to launch a public inquiry into two deaths at the Nova Institution for Women.
Camille Strickland-Murphy was 22 when she took her own life at the Truro, N.S. prison two months ago. Veronica Park was 38 when she died at the Nova Institution earlier this year.
Both deaths have prompted Dalhousie law professor Archie Kaiser to call for public inquiries.
“There is evidence in both cases that the best practices one would expect of any institution that takes away somebody’s liberty weren’t adhered to,” says Kaiser.
Strickland-Murphy’s father is adding his voice to the call, saying none of his family’s questions has been answered.
“We’re still very much in the dark as to what happened,” says Noel Murphy. “They always seem to say ‘Well, everything is private and we have to respect the privacy of the individual,’ but you know, it seems like the privacy is being used to protect them.”
He says his daughter had serious mental health issues and he wants to know what, if any, psychiatric care she received, and why she wasn’t moved to a mental health hospital.
He hopes getting answers to his questions will help someone else.
“I guess I would hope that someone else in a similar circumstance as Camille, who, you know, has clear mental health problems, is given adequate care.”
Kaiser points to the recommendations of the Howard Hyde and Ashley Smith inquiries as examples of public accountability that may improve the situation for others.
“We need to have external scrutiny and public accountability,” he says. “It’s the province that really has to take responsibility here and I hope that they’ll step up to the plate and do exactly that.”
He says the province is responsible for calling a public inquiry under its Fatality Investigations Act, but the Nova Scotia Department of Justice disputes that, saying the justice minister doesn’t have that authority.
Instead, the department says questions about the deaths should be directed at Corrections Canada, as they occurred at a federal institution.
Corrections Canada says it is conducting an internal review.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Kayla Hounsell