VANCOUVER — The coroner’s jury in the inquest into the suicide of Lucia Vega Jimenez – a Mexican woman who hanged herself while waiting to be deported by the Canadian Border Services Agency – heard about the woman’s final hours today.
But the testimony didn’t come from Jimenez’s cellmates. The three women who were held alongside Jimenez, 42, have all been deported from Canada. Instead, the jury heard from the RCMP officer who interviewed the women immediately after Jimenez’s death.
The officer told the inquest the women were all crying and extremely upset when she interviewed them. They said Jimenez was distraught in her final hours, directly contradicting testimony offered by a CBSA officer, who had earlier stated Jimenez was calm and showing no signs of distress.
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“It seems to be a really important side of the story that we haven’t heard yet. We’re concerned as to why the three cellmates were not called as witnesses at the inquiry. We haven’t heard any explanation as to when they were deported, why they were deported with such speed and we’d like to know what efforts the coroners’ service went to track down these witnesses,” Neil Chantler, a lawyer with the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, told Global News.
It was these cellmates who first alerted the private security guards that Jimenez had been in the shower for a long time and had not come out.
The RCMP officer testified that one woman told her Jimenez showed signs of psychological distress.
“The other people that dealt with her couldn’t speak Spanish so why should we put much credence on what they think, because really someone you can’t communicate with is sitting there, and you say they seem fine,” Phil Rankin, a lawyer for the Canadian Council of Refugees, told Global News.
“If you don’t talk to them and you can’t communicate with them, then how is your conclusion relevant?”
The inquest is expect to wrap up today. The recommendations made by the jury aren’t binding, but instead are meant to inform the agencies involved – the CBSA and BC Corrections.
Since Jimenez’s death, the jury has heard there is no longer a shower rod in the bathroom and detainees are now checked before taking a shower, to make sure they have nothing they could use to harm themselves. However, lawyers involved say those measures aren’t enough, as detainees are still being treated like serious violent offenders.
–With files from Rumina Daya.
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