RCMP falsely tells NB mother that her son has died

Sarah Smellie, Canadian Press

Published Saturday, November 26, 2022 1:50 PM EST

Last updated Saturday, November 26, 2022 3:52 PM EST

DIEPPE, NB — A mother in New Brunswick is still reeling after she says she woke up Tuesday morning to news from the RCMP that her son had died, only to discover hours later that police had made a mistake.

Donna Price said her 29-year-old son struggled with homelessness and mental health issues, adding she believes a police disregard for people experiencing these issues contributed to the RCMP’s error.

Price said Saturday she plans to file a lawsuit against police to ensure police follow proper protocols to identify the deceased and notify their families, regardless of their living conditions.

“They all have their story,” Price said in an interview. “They have parents, they have grandparents, they have siblings. And no one here in Moncton is listening.”

Price declined to name her son to protect his privacy.

The ordeal began sometime after 1 a.m. Tuesday when Price said she heard knocking and looked out to see lights from a police vehicle outside her home in Dieppe, NB. She invited the two young RCMP agents and they told her that her son had died of an overdose in the nearby town of Moncton.

Grief-stricken, Price called his father and siblings to relay the devastating news, and they all came over in the middle of the night. Later that morning, she broke the news to her elderly parents.

When the coroner’s office called to ask if she wanted her son cremated and to ask for his identification, Price said she called someone else to go to his house to get the information, as well as any mementos that she had. she could keep.

That person found her son alive at home, she said.

“I literally asked them 10 times because I didn’t believe it,” she said. It had been 13 hours since the police first knocked on her door.

Price was calm as she told her own story, speaking clearly and carefully. But her voice broke when she spoke about the family of the deceased man.

“That family that is grieving today has been robbed for 13 hours,” she said. “Those were not our hours to take. It was part of them, to gather their families and grieve as a family. I feel like they’ve been robbed.”

Price said she had many pointed questions when she called the RCMP to say they made a mistake, but the police didn’t answer them. They also asked her for proof of life for her son, she said.

Later that afternoon, a sergeant and a constable came to her house and they apologized, but only after pressing them for more information, she said. She was eventually told that officers had taken photos of the deceased man and sent them around to police. One or more members said they recognized the man as her son.

Moncton attorney Brian Murphy said the case poses a significant public concern.

“If this was how police identified deceased persons, we should all think twice. But it’s not,” Murphy said in an interview Saturday. “If this had been a businessman in a pinstripe suit from the north or something, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have been so lax.”

Murphy will represent the Price family in the lawsuit they plan to bring, though he said no paperwork has yet been filed with the court.

“This should not have happened to any other family, and it should not have happened to the family of the deceased,” he said.

Guillaume Belanger of the New Brunswick RCMP said on Saturday that police were aware of the error but could not comment further on the matter.

Meanwhile, Price and her family deal with many conflicting emotions.

“We don’t know how to feel. We are very excited, very sad. We are very confused,” she said. “We just try to go through the motions and be nice to each other.”

Price said she hopes the case will prompt city and county governments to do more to protect Moncton’s vulnerable population. The man who died had been turned away from the city’s shelters that night because they were too full. He had survived an overdose at a prevention site earlier on Monday morning and the employees there could not find a warm place to sleep for him.

“There are resources out there. Allocate the money where it is needed,” she said. “It’s getting cold outside. They can’t stay outside.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on November 26, 2022.

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