Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Cancel Anytime
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Canada’s most-awarded
newsroom for a reason
Stay informed for a
lot less, cancel anytime
“Exemplary reporting on
COVID-19” – Herman L
per week
for 24 weeks
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Ashley Smith is shown surrounded by guard at Joliette Institution in Joliette, Que., on July 26, 2007 in this image made from video. The haunting protests of a now dead teenager filled a coroner's courtroom Wednesday as surveillance videos were screened showing the troubled inmate repeatedly tranquilized against her will or being threatened with having her face duct-taped.

Handout/The Canadian Press

Troubled young inmate Ashley Smith wanted to work on her behaviour to get out of her near-constant segregation, but before any real progress could be made she was shipped off to yet another institution, an inquest has heard. Ms. Smith had been in secure isolation at a youth facility before she was transferred to the Nova Institution for Women in Truro, N.S., on Oct. 31, 2006.

In all, Ms. Smith was transferred 17 times between various institutions over the last 11 months of her life – most of that time spent in segregation.

She was a notoriously difficult inmate, frequently hurting herself, most often by tying ligatures around her neck, the inquest has heard. She died at 19 after strangling herself at Grand Valley Institution in Kitchener, Ont., in October, 2007. Guards had been instructed not to enter her cell to remove the ligatures if she was still breathing, the inquest has heard. Ms. Smith would tie the strips of cloth around her neck in part for attention and in part for the "almost sexual" sensation it gave, psychologist Allister Webster told the inquest Monday. The isolation took its toll on her, he suggested.

Story continues below advertisement

"[She was] an adolescent who over the years had developed very maladaptive ways of approaching life," said Mr. Webster, who worked at Nova while Ms. Smith was there.

"My belief was that she had been largely locked away from her peers for many years … She had not been provided with an opportunity to really develop an identity."

Mr. Webster only ended up spending a total of 21 days assessing or treating Ms. Smith. In the few months she was at Nova – broken up over two stints – she self-harmed and otherwise acted out a lot, but had also signed off on a therapy plan to get out of segregation, Mr. Webster said.

"There wasn't much time to do anything beyond trying to set some groundwork that we might be able to build on, and then she was gone," he said.

She eventually withdrew her consent for treatment, but Mr. Webster still believed she could be helped, he said. A psychiatrist at the institution identified Ms. Smith as having a number of personality issues such as borderline personality disorder and sadism, but did not diagnose her as having any psychotic mental illness, Mr. Webster said. The correctional staff who dealt with Ms. Smith at Nova expressed a lot of frustration with her behaviour – particularly when she would smear or throw her feces – and said she was "crazy" and belonged in a hospital, Mr. Webster said.

"Health-care staff said, 'This woman is not psychotic,'" he said. "She's not out of her mind. The behaviour has a purpose. She's trying to accomplish something."

Ms. Smith was lonely in segregation and when she "tied off" it was to get attention, she told Mr. Webster. It was a power struggle with, as a psychiatrist called her, "a large, tyrannical child who can't tolerate limits," Mr. Webster said.

Story continues below advertisement

When Ms. Smith self-harmed, staff at Nova were told not to engage her in conversation, and if they had to, to keep it "matter of fact and without warmth," Mr. Webster said. The idea was not to reinforce self-harming behaviours, he said.

Mr. Webster went on vacation at the end of December, 2006, and when he came back Ms. Smith had been transferred, unbeknownst to him, to the Regional Psychiatric Centre in Saskatoon, he said.

Ms. Smith was transferred many more times between institutions before she died in Kitchener, including one more stay of several weeks at Nova. Staff there were not happy about getting the difficult inmate back and a prison-wide "awareness session" about Ms. Smith was held, Mr. Webster said. Even maintenance staff attended, he said.

Mr. Webster explained Ms. Smith's behaviour to staff by likening her relationship with correctional staff to that of a child and a parent, he said. "She felt that if she tied off and she was in trouble, she felt that [Correctional Service Canada] had to save her," Mr. Webster testified. "That was the game … She expected that CSC would always be the adult and come in and help."

Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies