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, had been found deceased in her home in Casselman, Ontario. It was shocking and hard to take in: Kathryn (or Kate) was 54 years old and in good health despite a lifelong history of food allergies – she had always managed them.
We would soon find out that Kate had placed a 911 call from her home two days earlier, that she had struggled to make herself understood by the dispatcher, and that no emergency responders had come to the house. We would also learn – after launching an official complaint to the OPP – that from the moment Kate placed her 911 call, at 4:43 pm on Labour Day, a series of mind-boggling errors and miscommunications were made all the way down the emergency response chain.
An official investigation was launched by the OPP (only on the police service side, not on the dispatch side), and 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 will take place in spring or summer of 2018.) From their internal 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 has been the subject of several media articles, which have presented the case as though all the responsibility for Kate’s death rests 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 Kate’s story in serialized installments on this website (you can find them here). It’s the story of the search for justice for Kate 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