Inquest To Examine Wettlaufer Case

Elizabeth Wettlaufer is escorted into the Woodstock courthouse, January 13, 2017. (Photo by Miranda Chant, Blackburn News)

The Ontario government says there will be an inquest into the case of killer nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer.

The announcement was made in a statement from Attorney General Yasir Naqvi and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Eric Hoskins on the day that Wettlaufer was sentenced to life in prison for killing eight residents of long-term care homes in Woodstock and London.

“On behalf of the Ontario government, we want to express our deepest condolences to the victims, their families and the communities in Woodstock and London and the surrounding areas,” the statement says. “What happened was a tragedy. That’s why we are establishing an independent public inquiry to look into the circumstances in this case.”

The government says the next step will be to establish the inquiry through an order in council. It will then be determined who will lead the inquiry and what its scope will be.

“We want to assure the public that Ontario’s 78,000 long-term care residents are safe in their homes. Our oversight system in long-term care specifically focuses on the safety and security of our residents and we will continue to work to ensure all of our homes are meeting the highest standards,” Naqvi and Hoskins say in the statement. “It is our hope that through the inquiry process, we will get the answers we need to help ensure that a tragedy such as this does not happen again.”

Earlier in the day, CARP (formerly known as the Canadian Association of Retired Persons) and the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly (ACE) released an open letter to Premier Kathleen Wynne, calling on her to hold a public inquiry in the “systematic failures which allowed these crimes to happen and go unnoticed and unreported over the course of several years.”

“CARP is very concerned about attitudes and behaviours towards our most vulnerable Canadians in long-term care,” says Wanda Morris, VP of advocacy for CARP. “A public inquiry is long-overdue. Like abuse uncovered in residential schools or Catholic orphanages or parishes, I suspect we will learn problems reach much farther than we currently imagine.”

Both organizations, CARP and ACE, also released a statement late on Monday expressing their satisfaction in the province’s decision to establish an independent public inquiry.

“We eagerly await the terms of the inquiry to ensure that its scope is sufficient to address the actions, responsibilities and duties of the many institutions and individuals who failed to prevent or put a timely stop to Wettlaufer’s crimes, and to look at the systemic issues which have failed to protect residents of long-term care homes,” the statement reads. “Individuals across the province have had their confidence in long-term care homes in Ontario severely shaken. This is a critical first step to restoring trust in our long-term healthcare system.”

Wettlaufer pleaded guilty on June 1 to eight counts of first degree murder, four counts of attempted murder, and two counts of aggravated assault. She told the court how she injected her victims with insulin and how, as she often worked nights, had access to insulin supplies. Her confession spoke of a “red surge” that was the result of anger about her job and her life, which led to the urge to kill. After her guilty plea, CARP called for an inquiry into the treatment of residents in long-term care facilities.

“While Wettlaufer has now pled guilty to her crimes, it’s done nothing to ease the minds of Ontarians concerned about loved ones who live, or may one day live, in long-term care,” says Jane Meadus, lawyer and institutional advocate, Advocacy Centre for the Elderly.

The letter from CARP and ACE to Premier Wynne can be read here.