Kathleen Wynne calls news of alleged nursing home murders ‘extremely distressing’

Premier Kathleen Wynne said the alleged murders of eight Ontario nursing home residents is a "tragic circumstance.". Lars Hagberg / File / The Canadian Press

TORONTO – The alleged murders of eight Ontario nursing home residents by a nurse raise serious questions about government oversight, opposition politicians charged Tuesday, but the government provided few answers.

Premier Kathleen Wynne said she is sure everyone in the legislature agrees it is a “tragic circumstance.”

“This is an extremely distressing and tragic, tragic thing for all of the families involved,” she said.

“It would be inappropriate for me to comment on an ongoing police investigation. The police have made it clear there’s no threat to safety and we now need to let the police do their job.”

Elizabeth Tracey Mae Wettlaufer, 49, of Woodstock, Ont., has been charged with eight counts of first-degree murder in the killings, which police say took place between 2007 and 2014. She is no longer entitled to practise as a registered nurse. Investigators allege the residents were administered a drug, but police would not speak to a possible motive.

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READ MORE: Nurse accused of killing 8 people at nursing homes in Ontario

Seven of the alleged victims lived at a Caressant Care facility in Woodstock, Ont., while another resided at a Meadow Park facility in London, Ont.

A New Democrat who represents the London area asked the premier in question period how this allegedly happened under the oversight of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

“How do murders go undetected for nearly 10 years inside any long-term care home in Ontario?” said Teresa Armstrong.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins fielded questions outside the legislature but refused to answer most, citing the investigation.

“I’m going to refrain from answering questions that may be construed as implying certain actions or in any way that could potentially impede or otherwise hinder an active, ongoing police investigation,” he said.

Attorney General Yasir Naqvi stood next to Hoskins, stressing a need for them to be careful in what they said.

“It is important from the perspective of the government and the entire legal system that we let police do (their) robust work in investigating the matter and making sure that they have all the evidence they need in pursuit of the charges that they have laid,” Naqvi said.

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Hoskins would not detail the reporting procedure for when deaths occur in long-term care homes.

“I know you have a lot of questions – Ontarians have a lot of questions and those questions will be answered, however we’re asking for patience and understanding at this extremely difficult moment in time,” he said, adding that his thoughts are with the affected families.

Hoskins did say that autopsies are done under the discretion of the coroner.

READ MORE: ‘I just had a feeling’: Families speak out after Woodstock, Ont., nurse charged with murder

Progressive Conservative Leader Patrick Brown said it’s troubling that the allegations span such a long time.

“It raises a lot of questions, but I’m going to wait for the details to come out before we consider whether there’s been adequate action by the government, but this is alarming and I think it makes everyone cringe with worry,” he said.

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