We Remember Ashley Smith:

12 Feb

We Remember Ashley Smith:
Update on the Coroners Inquest +
Undoing Myths and Mobilizing in the Community

Wednesday February 20th, 7-9pm

Queen Street Commons Cafe, 43 Queen South, Kitchener
no purchase necessary, one single use washroom,
wheelchair accessible, near bus terminal,
kid and baby friendly with toys and change-table,
vegan, veg and gluten free foods for sale from cafe

About:
In remembering Ashley Smith, we work to dismantle the systems of oppression
that took her life. We know that her story is, tragically, not unique.
We as a community must react to ensure that this state brutality comes to an end.

After a 5 year delay, there is currently underway a mandatory Coroners Inquest
into the death of Ashley Smith. Come out and learn about the possibilities and
limitations of the process. We will offer an update on the proceedings and we
will also explore ways that the community can mobilize outside of the institutional
structures.

In all of our work we hope to undo the many myths built up around Ashley Smith
and others deemed to be suffering poor mental health. These myths are internalized
from our socialization in a capitalist society and are also fed by the medias framing
of Ashley Smith’s plight. Lets be sure not to duplicate them in our own life and work.

Background:

Ashley Smith January 29, 1988 – October 19, 2007

Ashley Smith died at the age of 19 in a segregation cell at the Grand Valley Institution

for Women in Kitchener. Having been denied a transfer to a psychiatric facility and

on suicide watch, Ashley tied a ligature around her neck and, while staff watched,

asphyxiated to death.

When Ashley Smith was 13 she threw a crab apple at a postal worker.

That act and other school incidents started Ashley’s experiences within the penal system.

Ashley spent most of her teenage years, starting at age 15, imprisoned,
mostly in segregation units. In the 11 months before her death, Ashley was moved 17 times

amongst 8 facilities in 4 provinces. Each transfer undermined her trust in staff and in the

correctional system, resulted in escalating ‘acting out’ behaviours, and assessments by the

Correctional Service that she was increasingly ‘difficult to manage’.

Her self-harming and ‘problematic’ behaviour have since been recognized as desperate

attempts for human interaction. Studies have demonstrated the severe, damaging effects of

prolonged segregation on human beings.

Reports of the Federal Correctional Investigator and New Brunswick Ombudsman attribute

Ashley’s death to failures of individual staff and to much deeper failures within the correctional

and mental health systems themselves. A provincial corner’s inquest was launched in Ontario

but was halted in September 2011 du to legal challenges and logistical obstacles.

Hearings are now underway, with a new inquest to begin in 2013.

Again federal correctional authorities, and now doctors involved in Ashley’s care, are filing motions

to seal key evidence from the inquiry and the public.

Family lawyer, Julian Falconer on motions to suppress evidence:
“This is a classic example of the method of doing business by the

Correctional Service of Canada.” “Pure and simple state cover-up”

More details to come. Web site launches soon!
contact: ianhstumpf@gmail.com, or shannon.balla@gmail.com

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