The BC Coroners Service confirmed on Sunday that the recent death of a woman at the Occupy Vancouver protest camp was caused by a drug overdose.
Owen Court, Vancouver-Metro’s regional coroner, said toxicology tests show 23-year-old Ashlie Gough of Victoria died Nov. 5 of a mixed drug overdose of cocaine and heroin.
Ms. Gough, who travelled to the protest last weekend to visit friends, was found unresponsive in a tent at the site outside the Vancouver Art Gallery at about 4:40 p.m.
“Indications are she had been deceased for quite some time,” Mr. Court said in an interview.
The investigation shows Ms. Gough was last seen alive when she went into her tent around 4 a.m., before being found by a friend more than 12 hours later.
Mr. Court said the investigation, which included interviews with family and friends and several witnesses, suggests Ms. Gough was not a drug addict, but perhaps more of a recreational user.
“This is a tragedy,” Mr. Court said. “She didn’t deserve to die like this.”
He said the investigation also involved the police, who quickly ruled out foul play.
“Quite frankly, in this particular case, there are no surprises,” Mr. Court said in confirming early indications that the death was caused by a drug overdose.
He said it was impossible to tell if Ms. Gough took the drugs together, or separately.
The investigation is continuing. An autopsy and detailed coroner’s report on still being worked on, Mr. Court said.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail last week, Ms. Gough’s father, Tom Gough, said he hoped his daughter would not become a poster child for the occupation against corporate greed.
“This has nothing to do with the tent city or Occupy Vancouver. She just happened to be there. It’s just another bad thing that happened in downtown Vancouver,” he said.
Her death has cast a pall over the protest in Vancouver, and across the country, as the movement enters its fourth week.
The Vancouver encampment has been rocked by Ms. Gough’s death, another near-fatal overdose, and a violent confrontation between police and protesters over a barrel fire, blessed by aboriginal elders as “a sacred flame.”
The city’s bid to end to the protest last week has been stalled in court, which will likely keep the issue front and centre of the municipal election campaign leading up to the vote this Saturday.
Three days of hearings have been set in B.C. Supreme Court starting on Wednesday on an additional injunction to clear the site.
Meantime, city officials have argued that activists have failed to deal with fire-safety concerns at the site.
Vancouver Police said their officers spent most of Saturday monitoring fire and rescue and city staff that were conducting safety inspections at the encampment.
“The VPD is on record as wanting the encampment to end peacefully,” Vancouver Police Chief Jim Chu said in a statement on Sunday. “As long as imminent life safety issues are addressed, taking these extra days to obtain a court order reduces the potential for violence and spillover protests.”
The police also monitored and escorted a protest march through downtown Vancouver on Saturday, and said there were “no incidents of note” beyond traffic delays.
The encampment has emerged as a major election issue, with Mayor Gregor Robertson under fire from challenger Suzanne Anton for allowing the occupation to continue.
With reports from Rod Mickleburgh and Brennan Clark