A coroner’s inquest into the death of killer Darcy Richard Bertrand at the Mission Institution in 2012 has recommended better mental health services for inmates and mandatory suicide-prevention training for prison staff.
Bertrand was serving a life sentence for the murders of three members of the Roufosse family in Maillardville almost 20 years ago. On Thanksgiving Sunday 1995, Bertrand, then 29, waited for the parents of his former common-law wife, Annette Roufosse, to leave Our Lady of Lourdes Church.
He stabbed 60-year-old Celine Roufosse, then her 63-year-old husband, Henry, when he came to her aid. Annette’s seven-year-old son witnessed the event and ran away.
Bertrand then drove to the Roufosse home several blocks away and tried to break in; when he started walking towards a neighbour, Annette, 29, walked outside carrying her and Bertrand’s one-year-old baby, with their three-year-old beside her. Bertrand stabbed her 11 times and then fled to his parents’ Burnaby home, where he was later arrested.
In 1996, he pleaded guilty to three counts of second-degree murder and was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years. Had he survived, Bertrand would have been eligible to apply for escorted day passes in October.
On the morning of Aug. 14, 2012 a corrections officer found Bertrand had hanged himself in his cell.
Staff performed CPR and he was later transported to Abbotsford Regional Hospital. Although Bertrand’s heart had resumed beating, he suffered a “severe hypoxic brain injury due to hanging” and died in hospital shortly after 6 p.m. on Aug. 16, 2012.
Sixteen witnesses were called to testify during the three-day coroner’s inquest in May 2014. The summary of findings notes that Bertrand openly identified as a gay man of aboriginal heritage, and at the time of his death he was applying for a transfer to the minimum-security Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village.
There were signs of trouble early in 2012, according to the inquest findings. Six months before his death, Bertrand filed a complaint against other inmates of his unit, saying he was being bullied and harassed based on his sexual orientation. But since he did not provide details, he was told by the Mission Institution that the complaint would not proceed.
The harassment reportedly continued and, two months before his death, a fellow inmate accused Bertrand of a serious crime. No charges were laid and two prisoners reported the accusation itself may have been part of the harassment.
Four days before his death Bertrand was advised he would be receiving an institutional charge for “inappropriate behaviour,” which the inquest summary does not specify. The outburst led to Bertrand meeting with the institution’s registered psychiatric nurse (RPN) the day before he died, during which he expressed distress about how the charge would affect his transfer application.
On the morning he died, Bertrand spoke with two prison staff members and a fellow inmate; each time, he was initially upset about the charge but left feeling somewhat better.
A corrections officer delivered the charge to Bertrand at 10 a.m. and, after a brief discussion, he said he was fine. He went to his cell alone at 10:40 a.m. and was discovered at 11:20 a.m.
Since Bertrand’s death, Mission Institution has required all employees, including contract staff, to take a one-hour online suicide-prevention course as well as a one-day classroom course. Staff now also receive practical training in emergencies like suicide in the form of quarterly scenarios.
As well, all harassment and bullying complaints by inmates are now presented directly to the warden.
The jury recommended increased resources for psychological services for the more than 350 inmates, many of whom are high-needs individuals, as well as the development of a national strategy to address bullying and harassment in prisons, particularly with regards to sexual orientation and gender identity.
The jury also recommended implementing procedures to reduce inmate isolation, eliminate hanging points in cells and avoid placing one inmate in a double-bunk cell.