When members of the Truro police asked Victoria Paul if she was okay, she grunted – so they left her on the concrete floor of her jail cell for hours before they called an ambulance to take her to the hospital.
That’s where Paul, 44, would later die as a result of a stroke.
That tragedy, in which the Truro police were investigated and later cleared by Halifax police, was front and centre at the Membertou hearings for the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls Tuesday.
“Victoria was my neighbour,” said Cheryl Maloney who is currently the president of the Nova Scotia Native Women’s Association and who lobbied to have an independent investigation into Paul’s death back in 2009.
“And she was smarter than me – I have a couple of degrees, but she was smarter than me.”
Paul’s niece Candace Sylliboy talked about her aunt’s death.
“Auntie Victoria was laying in her urine with her pants down,” said Sylliboy. “There was a woman guard who went in and dressed her up. But then one of the guards said that it would be best for her to lay on the floor, so she wouldn’t fall off the bed and hurt herself again.
“But they didn’t give her a mattress, or blanket nothing they just left here there on the cold cement floor.”
Maloney spent more than a year fighting for Paul’s death to be properly investigated.
The province appointed an independent investigator – but she said the investigation was inadequate.
“They were very weak reports, things like, “check on them every 15 minutes, give them a blanket,” nothing to do with the larger systemic issues in this country, this is willful neglect,” she said.
Maloney made a number of recommendations at the Membertou hearings including; increasing the statute of limitations for police complaints, more speed and transparency when police behavior is being investigated, and increased punitive measures for wrongful death cases.
It’s not clear whether the commissioners can make these recommendations a reality.
“So for us if we’re able to read and understand what happened,” said Audette. “We have that capacity to request more information, not to reopen the case, I want to be clear here, but to understand what went wrong.”
Maloney understands that the inquiry has limitations.
“For the inquiry to succeed every province, every police force, every individual, groups, have to say ‘how can I make this inquiry work?’
“And if we all put our collective minds together to make it successful, then it will be successful.”
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