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Local non-profit seeks public inquiry into death of Halifax man in custody

Global News with Martha Paynter 28 August 2019


A local non-profit is assisting a Halifax family in its search for answers after a man in custody at the East Coast Forensic Hospital died this week.

Gregory Hiles, 39, was reportedly found hanging from his sheets at the Dartmouth psychiatric hospital overnight between Aug. 20 and Aug, 21. He was taken off of life support on Tuesday.

His organs were donated, a family member confirmed with Global News.

The relative asked not to be identified, but described Hiles, a father of two, as “loving, caring and devoted to his family, aside from his past history with the law.”

In the hours after his death, his family wants to know how Hiles allegedly encountered harm under the watch of the hospital, which is overseen by the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA).

The Women’s Wellness Initiative has demanded a public inquiry on the family’s behalf and is calling for higher standards of care for incarcerated persons in Nova Scotia.

“This is a man whose mother is looking for answers about what happened to him,” initiative chair and co-ordinator Martha Paynter told Global News on Wednesday.

“His bodily autonomy was not maintained, was not secure and I understand that he was not able to have contact visits with his own children.”

Earlier this year, Hiles was found not criminally responsible for assault causing bodily harm, uttering threats, assaulting a peace officer and other charges on the grounds of a mental disorder.

He previously pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was served a sentence of 10 years for a 1998 killing in Spryfield.

In an emailed statement on Wednesday, Health Minister Randy Delorey did not commit to a public inquiry into Hiles’ death, but said he had received comments from Women’s Wellness Within and would respond to them.

He said the NSHA conducts “a comprehensive review of any serious events involving patients,” a summary of which would be available to Hiles’ next of kin.

“The loss of a loved one is difficult under any circumstance. The situation as being reported is deeply concerning to us… As we cannot speak to individual cases for privacy reasons, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”

The NSHA declined to directly address Hiles’ case or to confirm his death, but via email, it confirmed that all serious events involving a patient that has contacted its health care system are subject to a quality review focussed on “learning and improving.”

That review, it said, is confidential.

Martha Paynter is a spokesperson and president of the board for Women’s Wellness Within