An emotional morning at the Ashley Smith Inquest

Only halfway through the day and I’m already about worn out from today’s inquest testimony.

All of the Corrections Officers who have testified so far have displayed, to some extent, their humanity and their frustrations at the directives they were being given around their interactions with Ashley Smith at GVI… but Gaetan Desrosiers, who is testifying today, is really hitting home for me.

He began, today, by describing Ashley as a child, as opposed to the (responsible for her own problems and death) adult she is more often described as. We have seen the videos, and pictures and we have read. We – those of who do not have to rationalize away our role in her torture and death – are, I think, agreed that Ashley was a child, and yes, Vic Toews, even a victim.

Imprisoned since the age of 15, held almost entirely in segregation without exposure to any of the normal experiences and opportunities for growth that most adolescents have, she remained a troubled and difficult, yet engaging, child.

One of the most striking things that Mr. Desrosiers has said today, in my opinion, is his comment that “that’s what Ashley Smith needed…a little bit of attention…a little bit of respect.”

Clearly – and just as clearly, the systems which were supposed to help her, to provide the attention and respect and treatementĀ that she needed chose instead to regard her as a problem, a generator of statistics and reports, a data stream… but not a person.

Mr. Desrosiers knew Ashley Smith as a person – and that, we are hearing, caused him a great deal of personal difficulty when CSC – at whatever level … presumably we’ll find out at some point where the directives actually originated …. decided that she was not. He related this morning that he was, on at least one occasion, going to quit because of it. That night, he says, he told himself “I can’t quit tonight. Tomorrow is okay. Tonight, Ashley needs me” …and he returned to continue negotiating with her.

His testimony has not yet reached 19-Oct, when, we know from others, Mr. Desrosiers was assigned to the bubble… but I suspect that it will not be easy – for him, or for those of us who are following the inquest.


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