Wife pleads for justice at hearing into Errol Greene's death at Winnipeg Remand Centre

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Wife pleads for justice at hearing into Errol Greene's death at Winnipeg Remand Centre

The wife of a man who died while in custody last year repeated calls for answers at a hearing in Winnipeg Wednesday into her husband's death.

Errol Greene, 26, died after suffering epileptic seizures at the Winnipeg Remand Centre on May 1, 2016. He suffered the attack during a phone call with his wife Rochelle Pranteau, who was four months pregnant with their son at the time.

"My kids and I need answers for why Errol died," Pranteau said in a statement.

Manitoba's office of the chief medical examiner confirmed in December it would conduct an inquest into Greene's death.

At the Wednesday hearing, Pranteau and officials with Manitoba Corrections, Winnipeg police, the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service and the John Howard Society were granted the right to testify at the inquest.

Pranteau is also suing the provincial government, alleging it is responsible for failing to provide her husband with the necessities of life — including access to medication for epilepsy — and that contributed to his death.

'Avoidable death'

"This was an avoidable death," said Corey Shefman, Pranteau's lawyer. 

In addition to probing the circumstances surrounding Greene's death, Shefman said he plans to question the Manitoba Corrections policies that deprived Greene of his medication, as well as the "broken bail system."

Greene was arrested April 30, 2016, and placed in custody at the Winnipeg Remand Centre for breaching a court order that prohibited him from consuming alcohol. 

He suffered two epileptic seizures during a phone conversation with his wife the next day and was eventually admitted to the Health Sciences Centre.

An autopsy report published by CBC News in October confirmed he died of internal bleeding. The report raised questions about how corrections officers dealt with Greene's medical emergency, noting they did not administer seizure-controlling medication to the father of four.

"It's shocking," Shefman said. "When people go into prison, they are entirely at the mercy of the government, of the state. They don't have freedom, they don't have autonomy, and so they rely on the government to take care of them.

"When the government doesn't put in place the necessary safety measures to present deaths, that's a problem."

Systemic racism?

Shefman said those safety concerns become even more troubling when you consider that the majority of inmates behind bars in Manitoba aren't serving sentences and haven't yet been convicted of anything.

"Errol, when he was in jail, was not serving a sentence, was not guilty of a crime. He was there awaiting bail and that's like a majority of inmates in Manitoba," Shefman said.

Like Errol, over 70 per cent of Manitoba inmates identify as Indigenous. Shefman said he plans to shine a spotlight on that statistic during the inquest and the "systemic racism inherent in the criminal justice system."

Pranteau said she hopes the inquest will shed light on the circumstances leading up to her husband's death and get the family the "justice we need."

"We get barely any information from the remand centre and I'm afraid that this is going to happen again to another family," Pranteau said in a statement.

Five inmates, including Greene, died in 2016 at the remand centre, which houses about 300 people.