Late in the evening of September 3rd, 2014, my niece Harriet received a phone call no one expects or wants ever to receive: a sergeant from the Ontario Provincial Police was delivering the news that her mother, my sister Kathryn (Kate to many), had been found deceased in her home in Casselman, Ontario. It was shocking and hard to take in: Kathryn was 54 years old and in good health despite a lifelong history of food and environmental allergies—she had always managed them.
We would soon find out that Kathryn had placed a 911 call from her home two days earlier, that she had struggled to make herself understood by the call-taker, and that no emergency responders had come to the house. We would also eventually learn—after making an official complaint to the OPP—that from the moment Kathryn placed her 911 call, at 4:43 pm on Labour Day, a mind-boggling series of errors and miscommunications were made all the way down the emergency response chain.
As a result of our official complaint, two investigations were launched—an independent investigation of the uniformed officers by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director (OIPRD) and an internal OPP investigation of the civilian 911 operators. Not satisfied with an internal investigation of Ontario’s emergency response system (the full results of which were not shared with us), our family lobbied for an inquest, which we finally received (in conjunction with another case) on appeal to the Chief Coroner in February 2017. (The inquest took place from October 15th to November 1st, 2018.)
As a result of the OIPRD investigation, the OPP charged two constables under the Police Services Act. My sisters and my niece and I attended the hearings, which were drawn out over nearly a year. One constable was found guilty of two counts of neglect of duty. This decision was the subject of several media articles, which presented the case as though all the responsibility for Kathryn’s death rested upon the shoulders of this one OPP constable. This is so far from the truth that we want to set the record straight.
I’m telling Kathryn’s story in serialized installments on this website (you can find them here). It’s the story of the search for justice for Kathryn and for changes to the 911 system, and much more. My intention is to present her story in its larger context and in a compassionate, forgiving light that I hope might also help others who feel they have been wronged and are seeking justice and inner peace. I’m calling it: Beyond Blame: Kate’s Story