The parents of an Abbotsford, B.C. man are suing the Saskatchewan government and Saskatchewan Health Authority, which admitted it failed to provide the 20-year-old with help on the day he took his own life.
During his first visit that morning, his cousin took Uko to the emergency room but was told he could not go in due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Uko was eventually diagnosed with depression and referred to a mental health clinic. Later that day, Uko called 911 and was taken by police to the hospital a second time.
It was during this visit that Uko was forcibly removed by four security guards for not being able to provide his name and details. Shortly after, his lifeless body was discovered in Wascana lake.
The statement of claim alleges the SHA was “negligent and breached its duty of care” by failing to provide help for Uko’s mental health issues, which ultimately led to his suicide on May 21.
“The fight now is not about Samwel. The fight now is for us to put the message out for other people,” said Justin Nyee, Uko’s uncle.
According to the claim, the executive director of acute care, John Ash, “confirmed that there were no processes in place to ensure that Samwel or any patient in a similar situation received the right care,” further acknowledging that the “SHA spent too much time trying to obtain Samwel’s identity and not enough time focusing on his care needs.”
As for the government’s role, the claim states that the province was aware or should have been aware that “policies and practices in relation to patients with mental health issues were non-existent or not on the appropriate standard.”
“The real problem is that we don’t have anything set up as protocols that work for mental health although 20 per cent of Canadians suffer mental health issues every year,” said Regina lawyer Tony Merchant, who is representing Uko’s parents.
“It’s a conjoined issue of harm to the family and wrongs to society.”
After Uko’s death, the SHA issued a letter of apology to Uko’s family on June 17.
“I appreciate there are no words that can bring Samwel back, but I want you to know that we recognize how deeply we failed him,” SHA said in the letter, signed by CEO Scott Livingstone.
“I extend this apology and condolences on behalf of the Saskatchewan Health Authority to your entire family, and most especially you, Samwel’s parents (Joice Bokando and Taban Uko).”
In a statement to Global News, the SHA said it extends its deepest condolences to the Uko family for their loss, adding, “we will not have any comment on the statement of claim as it is an active legal file.”