Two correctional officers are now facing charges in connection with the death of an inmate who was repeatedly pepper sprayed at a New Brunswick prison in May 2015.
The RCMP received a call shortly before 12:45 a.m. on May 27, 2015 that an inmate from Dorchester Penitentiary had been pronounced dead at the Moncton Hospital following an emergency medical transport from the prison.
Matthew Ryan Hines, who was originally from Cape Breton, had been serving a five-year sentence at the prison for offences including robbery.
The New Brunswick RCMP conducted an investigation and initially determined foul play was not suspected in the 33-year-old man’s death.
However, police say new information came to light in May 2016, and the Nova Scotia RCMP were brought in to review the file.
Canada’s correctional investigator also released a report in May 2017, saying Hines’ death was preventable, and unnecessary force was used.
Ivan Zinger said the repeated use of pepper spray at very close range appears to have contributed to Hines' rapid onset of medical complications.
Zinger found correctional staff used unnecessary physical and chemical force, even as Hines was "clearly and fully" under control by the guards, and failed to properly respond to the ensuing medical emergency.
He said those factors ultimately led to the man’s death by acute asphyxia due to pulmonary edema -- a condition caused by excess fluid in the lungs.
On Wednesday, police laid charges against 48-year-old Alvida Ross and 31-year-old Mathieu Bourgoin, who were correctional officers at the Dorchester Penitentiary at the time of Hines’ death.
Ross and Bourgoin, both of Dieppe, have each been charged with manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death.
They are due to appear in Moncton provincial court on Feb. 26.
Hines’ family released a statement Wednesday, saying they are relieved his death has been thoroughly investigated.
“Our parents waited far too long to be told the truth of how Matthew died, and now we feel that is fundamentally important to all Canadians that justice be done, and be seen to be done,” they said.
“Although we have been told and accept that only two correctional officers are facing criminal charges under the Criminal Code of Canada, we trust that all who saw Matthew before and during his death look in the mirror every day with the knowledge of what they did and did not do.”
Hines’ family has said that he struggled with mental illness since he was an adolescent, and that they were initially told that he died of a seizure.
Zinger's report also found that Correctional Service Canada provided misleading and incomplete information to the public and the family about the circumstances surrounding Hines' death.
The report made 10 recommendations, all of which have been accepted by Correctional Service Canada.
The recommendations include several aimed at addressing systemic gaps in how Correctional Service Canada staff respond to medical emergencies.
It also directs the service to immediately develop a separate intervention plan for front-line staff in recognizing and responding to medical and mental-health emergencies.
With files from The Canadian Press