KAWARTHA LAKES-A mandatory inquest into the death of an inmate at Central East Correctional Centre in Lindsay in 2016 began today via video conference.
Soleiman Faqiri died on December 15, 2016, after a physical altercation with staff at the facility. No criminal charges have been laid. Kawartha 411 News, formerly VanMeer Free Press was the first to report on the incident after receiving information from sources connected to the facility.
The inquest will examine the circumstances surrounding Faqiri’s death and jurors may make recommendations aimed at preventing further deaths.
Dr. David Cameron is the presiding officer. Prabhu Rajan and Julian Roy are the inquest counsel.
A number of parties including the Canadian Mental Health Association of Ontario, OPSEU the union representing staff at the facility and Dr Brett MacMillan, a physician at the jail have been given standing in the inquest. Others such as Tracking Justice and the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association will be allowed to make submissions.
“Soleiman should not have died that day in this jail cell,” said Rajan in his opening remarks “But more importantly he should not even have been there, in a jail lacking adequate health care resources within a broader system that doesn’t effectively deal with individuals affected by significant psychiatric issues. Because Soleiman Faqiri has a major, long-standing mental disorder, namely, Schizoaffective disorder which combines features schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder and manic depression. Soleman should have been in a place that properly understood and effectively treated this significant mental illness. ”
Faqiri was charged with aggravated assault, assault and threatening death after he stabbed his neighbour on December 4, 2016. According to the inquest between 2005 and 2016 Faqiri was apprehended various times under the Mental Health Act. Faqiri was born in Kabul Afghanistan in 1986. His family fled a civil war in 1992 and immigrated to Canada. He later became a Canadian citizen. The inquiry heard that Faqiri was attending the University of Waterloo in 2005 when he was in a car crash and suffered a significant brain injury. He was no longer able to attend university.
Rajan told the jury that it didn’t take long for Durham Regional Police to realize he had significant mental health issues after he was arrested. The courts and the jail also realized early on that Faqiri had mental health issues according to Rajan. Dr MacMillan, the resident physician at the jail prescribed antipsychotic medication for Faqiri and referred him for a psychiatric assessment. The Inquest heard that Faqiri would not take his medication regularly and was deemed too unwell to see the psychiatrist. Staff at the jail consulted with his father to obtain his medical history and received permission to give him an injection of anti-psychotic medication.
An agreed statement of facts reveals that on the day Faqiri died there was some disagreement between correctional staff, management and medical staff as to how to deal with his deteriorating mental health and aggression. Correctional staff did not feel it was safe to move Faqiri and asked for the crisis intervention team to facilitate the move. Medical staff thought that could aggravate the situation further and management denied the request. Correctional staff continued to voice concerns about moving him but were given a direct order to do so.
According to the agreed statement of facts the move started out relatively peaceful but at some point staff reported Faqiri had spit on an officer and things turned violent. Video seems to corroborate this. That led to a prolonged physical interaction which resulted in Faqiris’ death.
“I have been involved in this case for over five years in various capacities and two questions have consistently circled my mind. Questions that I ask you to consider while you hear the evidence.” said Rajan “One, why did Soleiman remain at CECC instead of being taken to a hospital to receive much-needed medical care. And two, why did correctional officers moving Soleiman from the shower to a cell simply leave him there, in his cell instead of continuing to use force?”
Rajan stressed the inquest is not about laying blame but about understanding the broader underlying systemic issues in this case and also about what happened that day. The jurors are tasked with answering five questions.
Who was the deceased, how did the deceased come to their death, when did the deceased come to their death, where did the deceased come to their death and by what means did the deceased come to their death? The jury can also make recommendations on preventing future deaths.
“Our hope is that we can continue to shine a light on these questions and the many issues raised by Soleiman’s death. We also hope to assist you in coming up with recommendations for change. A different approach to dealing with people with psychiatric illnesses and emergencies who are in the criminal justice system.” Rajan told the jury.
The inquest is expected to last three weeks.