FREDERICTON — Three years after a troubled Cape Breton man died after being hit repeatedly with pepper spray in prison, two correctional officers have been charged with manslaughter.
RCMP had originally said foul play was not suspected in Matthew Hines's death, but the charges come after Canada's correctional investigator found prison staff used unnecessary force.
Hines, who was serving a five-year sentence for crimes including robbery, died on May 26, 2015, at Dorchester Penitentiary in New Brunswick.
Family members were originally told the 33-year-old died of a seizure, and said in a statement Wednesday they are relieved that his death has been thoroughly investigated.
"Our parents waited far too long to be told the truth of how Matthew died, and now we feel it is fundamentally important to all Canadians that justice be done, and be seen to be done," they wrote.
"We trust that all who saw Matthew before and during his death look in the mirror every day with the knowledge of what they did and did not do."
On Wednesday, two men, 48-year-old Alvida Ross and 31-year-old Mathieu Bourgoin, both of Dieppe, N.B., were charged with one count each of manslaughter and criminal negligence causing death.
Ivan Zinger, Canada's correctional investigator, said in a May 2017 report that the repeated use of pepper spray at very close range appears to have contributed to Hines' rapid onset of medical complications.
He said correctional staff used unnecessary physical and chemical force and failed to properly respond to the medical emergency.
Zinger also said Correctional Service Canada provided misleading and incomplete information to the public and the family about the circumstances surrounding Hines' death.
"Corrective factors taken after the fact failed to reflect the nature and gravity of staff errors and omissions that contributed to this tragic, and, by my estimation, avertable death," Zinger said.
"In this case, everything that could go wrong in a use-of-force intervention went wrong," he said.
"Although the internal investigation identified 21 legal and policy violations in the staff response, subsequently staff disciplinary proceedings were inherently flawed and self-serving."
His family has said Hines struggled with psychiatric issues since adolescence. He had been on parole in 2015 but the family said his mental health was deteriorating and they were told he could get the help he needed at Dorchester.
"Matthew was distraught at being sent back to the Dorchester Penitentiary and his last words to his sister Wendy were: 'Don’t let them kill me,'" the family said in a May 2017 statement.
The family noted his death was "captured in graphic detail on video."
Last year Correctional Service Canada said one person was fired and three others were disciplined.
In a statement Wednesday, CSC said it is aware of the charges and "have cooperated fully with the police investigation into the death of Mr. Hines."
"Both employees are currently on administrative leave pending review of their situation," the statement said.
Ross and Bourgoin are scheduled to appear in Moncton provincial court on Feb. 26.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press