A Cornwall, Ont., family says they're in mourning after a woman died overnight at a homeless encampment in the eastern Ontario city.
According to an email from a municipal official to city councillors, the "elderly" woman was already dead when paramedics arrived at Pointe Maligne Park on Sunday morning after getting a 911 call.
The woman's son-in-law, Keith Seyeau, identified her to CBC as Diane Hebert. The time and cause of her death remains unknown.
An undated photo of Diane Hebert. (Diane Hebert/Facebook)
A Cornwall Police Service spokesperson said Sunday afternoon they had no updates and likely would not be commenting today.
Seyeau said he and Hebert's daughter, Kim Legault, have been living next to her at the encampment on the east side of the city.
Hebert slept in her own tent, just a couple of metres away, having joined the couple at the camp this past summer, Seyeau said.
"All she had to do was say her name, and we were there," he said.
Seyeau said Hebert's daughter checked on her Sunday morning to find her dead. They were the ones who called an ambulance, he said.
"She was a good woman," Seyeau said. "She worked hard her whole life."
Video taken in tent days before death
Hebert had a "real rough go" of things in recent years, Seyeau said. She fell and injured her hip, had mobility issues, and had recently been in the hospital with pneumonia, he said.
Tina Point, the co-founder of Unity Street Help Association, a local community organization, said she's been checking in on residents and shot video of Hebert in her tent on Nov. 1.
In the video, which Point shared with CBC, Hebert sits on an inflated air mattress, dressed in polar-bear-themed pyjamas, with a pair of thick work socks hanging nearby. Several propane gas canisters and a portable heater can be seen in the tent.
Hebert said she'd been in the camp for two weeks.
"It wasn't so bad [before] but now it's really cold," she said.
Diane Hebert was interviewed by Tina Point, co-founder of Unity Street Help Association, inside her tent at a Cornwall, Ont., homeless encampment on Nov. 1, 2023, a few days before her death. (Submitted by Tina Point)
Seyeau said he and Legault are living at the camp because it's tough to find an affordable apartment in Cornwall.
According to the city's note to councillors, Hebert was known to the city's housing services department and had spoken to crisis team members during their regular visits to the encampment.
"Several options were offered to this individual," according to the email, which did not name Hebert. "While she did agree to be added to the [list of people experiencing homelessness], she chose to stay at the encampment."
The "alternate heating sources" found in the tent will be part of the police investigation and post-mortem, the email said.
Hebert's son-in-law, Keith Seyeau, said he was also staying at the encampment along with Hebert's daughter. She called Hebert 'a good woman' who 'worked hard her whole life.' (Camille Kasisi-Monet/Radio-Canada)
'This is a crisis,' advocate says
Pointe Maligne Park, whose grounds are owned by Transport Canada and not the city, is not the only place along Cornwall's waterfront where people have chosen to stay, Point said.
But it is the newest camp, she added.
"This is a crisis," she said of Cornwall's homelessness situation. "We're still people, we still breathe and eat and need everything that people with money need."
In a statement to CBC, the city said rising housing costs across the country have led to an increase in homelessness and that "unfortunately, Cornwall isn't immune to this issue."
"The city has been monitoring the current situation closely," it added.