THE tragic suicide of Mexican national Lucia Vega Jimenez, 42, who died December 28 at Mount St. Joseph Hospital in Vancouver after she was discovered hanging in a shower stall at the Immigration Holding Centre at Vancouver International Airport has disgraced Canada internationally.
Attempts by the authorities to hush up the death has only made matters worse.
After the scandal was exposed in the media, the BC Coroners Service confirmed the suicide this week and announced it was investigating the death.
Chief Coroner Lisa Lapointe said that Jimenez’s death “was appropriately reported to the BC Coroners Service by hospital personnel and an investigation into the circumstances of her death was immediately commenced.”
She added: “BC Coroners Service investigations are independent, impartial and comprehensive. As with all investigations undertaken by the Coroners Service, detailed findings are not reported until the circumstances of the death have been thoroughly and carefully reviewed and the facts determined.
“While we cannot prevent speculation about the events surrounding the death of Ms. Vega Jimenez, the Coroners Service will continue to carefully gather the facts using the broad authorities available to us. I can confirm that all of those contacted for information about the circumstances of the death, including federal and provincial agencies, are fully co-operating with Coroners Service investigators.”
She said that the decision as to whether to conclude the investigation by public coroner’s report or coroner’s inquest will be made once investigators have reviewed the facts, circumstances and issues surrounding the death.
MEANWHILE, Josh Paterson, Executive Director of the BC Civil Liberties Association, commented on Wednesday on unconfirmed media reports that the Canada Border Services Agency may have arranged a confidentiality agreement with Jimenez’s family.
“We are terribly concerned by the unconfirmed media report that Lucia Vega Jimenez’s sister signed a confidentiality agreement with CBSA in relation to Ms. Vega’s death. If what Ms. Vega’s sister is saying is true, it raises a real question as to the good faith of CBSA in dealing with this death. Was CBSA trying to keep the family quiet? If so, why? Did CBSA fail to disclose what happened to the public for a month in the hope that they could keep the news of this death under wraps?”
The BCCLA also commented on media reports that a private security company was responsible for security in the Vancouver airport detention centre, and that they may not have checked on Jimenez often enough while she was in their holding cells: “The media have reported that a private security company was guarding Ms Vega Jimenez while she was detained, and that she was able to commit suicide while in custody. Pawning off the job of guarding and protecting prisoners to private companies is irresponsible. And whether it was CBSA officers or contractors hired by CBSA who were guarding Ms. Vega Jimenez – it was CBSA’s responsibility to protect her from harm while she was detained. We need answers as to why that protection failed so tragically for Ms. Vega Jiménez.”