Housing activist who died hours after being released from hospital ‘was no stranger,’ says Ontario family seeking answers

WARNING: This story contains references to possible suicide.

It’s been five days since Brandy Schlemko learned that her daughter had died after falling from a building under construction in downtown Toronto, and she’s still searching for answers.

The Ontario Provincial Police knocked on Schlemko’s door in Jarvis, Ontario, about 50 kilometers south of Hamilton, to tell him that Vanessa Amos died after being found on the street at the corner of Bathurst and Bloor in Toronto.

Since then Schlemko, with the help of Amos’ friends, has been trying to piece together the last days of the 22-year-old’s life, but says they face roadblocks as they try to get information from the police, the hospital where Amos was allegedly recorded shortly before their deaths, and the coroner.

Amos “can’t just be swept under the rug and taken off the streets like trash. I’m not going to let that happen,” Schlemko said at a Monday news conference in Toronto.

The Hamilton-based activist was well known to camp supporters in the city. They often went by the name Ezra and identified as non-binary trans, using the pronouns they/them. (Family and friends said that before their deaths, they went back to using their birth name, Vanessa.)

“We, alongside ‘Nessa’s family, demand that the Toronto Police Service release details surrounding ‘Nessa’s death, hospitalizations and allow their family to view their child’s body,” Sahra Soudi said. , another camp activist, at Monday’s press conference.

Two of the many questions Schlemko says she is trying to answer are:

  • Why would Amos have been discharged from the hospital the same day a doctor assessed that Amos was at risk of harming himself?
  • How would Amos have fallen off a construction site in Toronto?

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Schlemko said.

The TTC incident landed Amos in the hospital

Details of what happened to Amos in the past week are a patchwork of reports from those who interacted with them.

The Toronto Police Service told CBC that Amos was pronounced dead Thursday, March 31, after being found on the ground near a construction site. But the events that Schlemko questions began the day before.

Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) spokesman Stuart Green said transit special constables arrived at the Bathurst station after reporting a person in apparent medical distress.

Toronto Police Const. Laura Brabant said it happened around 10:30 p.m. ET.

Green said that, as usual in these cases, TTC contacted first responders. Police say an “incident with a TTC special constable” led to Amos’ arrest for attempted assault, and they were given a May 24 court date.

Brandy Schlemko, right, gives a moving speech Monday on the death of her daughter Vanessa Amos. Schlemko says she wants more transparency from the police, the hospital, the TTC and Ontario’s Office of the Chief Coroner. (Radio Canada)

Amos was released when paramedics took them to hospital for assessment, police say.

Documents found by Amos’ mother in their apartment and seen by CBC News appear to show Amos was taken to Toronto Western Hospital on March 30.

One document is a psychiatric form completed by a doctor on March 31 that “certifies” that the doctor had reason to believe that Amos threatened or attempted to harm himself, and had a mental disorder that “is likely to cause…harm serious bodily harm to yourself.”

He says the hospital could detain Amos for up to 72 hours.

Another document appears to show that a registered nurse fired Amos on March 31 due to a court date. A third document, signed by another doctor, indicated that the discharge took place at noon that day.

It is unclear why Amos was released on the same day despite initial findings.

Toronto Western Hospital spokeswoman Alexa Giorgi declined to comment on the documents, citing patient privacy laws, but said the executor of Amos’ estate or a family member would receive admission information.

Giorgi said the hospital was following its standard procedure to review the circumstances of the case.

She said if a doctor issues a patient with a form like the one found in Amos’ apartment, it’s because he’s worried the patient is hurting someone and wants to have a psychiatric assessment done. .

Depending on the assessment, a patient can be held there against their will for up to 72 hours.

“A high threshold must be met to hold a patient against their will because it deprives them of their autonomy and decision-making,” Giorgi said.

If the assessment finds no reason to keep the person in the hospital, they can leave whenever they want.

“Vanessa shouldn’t have been released from the hospital,” Schlemko said Monday.

Hospital releases Amos hours before death

Later Thursday, Brabant said that at 8:07 p.m. Toronto police responded to reports of a falling roof at a construction site at Bathurst Street and Bloor Street West.

Amos was found on the ground and taken to hospital by paramedics, Brabant said, but was pronounced dead in hospital.

“The investigation is ongoing, but at this time there is no evidence to suggest the death is suspicious,” she said.

It’s unclear whether investigators spoke to witnesses or the construction company, EllisDon, on Tuesday morning.

EllisDon declined to comment, citing the police investigation.

I want answers and I’m not going to stop until I get them.​​​​– Brandy Schlemko, mother of Vanessa Amos

Schlemko said he received conflicting statements from police about some details of the case. She said they interacted with four different officers, making contact each time, and called the police engagement with the family “unacceptable”.

Brabant said she could not comment on further details of the case as it could jeopardize the investigation.

Schlemko also said she has yet to see her daughter’s body and find out how they were identified. Stephanie Rea of ​​the Office of the Chief Coroner would not comment on the case to CBC.

“I have nothing but the bypass,” Schlemko said.

Attorney Dean Paquette told CBC News he was working with Amos’ family to determine next steps.

Amos is remembered as an artist, activist

A vigil is scheduled for Amos at Bathurst and Bloor streets at 7 p.m. Tuesday evening.

On Monday, Schlemko spoke about Amos, as friends, housing and anti-racism activists gathered around her outside the TPS 14 division building on Dovercourt Road.

Through tears, she called Amos “a beautiful person” who was loved by people and “wasn’t nobody.”

Schlemko also wants to know how Amos got into the construction site in the first place.

Vanessa Amos is remembered as a fierce activist and lover of art and animals. (Submitted by Brandy Schlemko)

Amos, remembered as a fierce activist, was among six people arrested in an encampment eviction at Hamilton’s JC Beemer Park in November.

The charges were dropped in March after the activists agreed to take peace bonds.

Schlemko also stated that Amos loved painting and was an animal lover.

“I want answers and I’m not going to stop until I get them.”

If you are having suicidal thoughts or are having a mental health crisis, there is help:

  • Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566 (phone) | 45645 (Text, 4 p.m. to midnight ET only) | crisisservicescanada.ca.
  • Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868. You can also text CONNECT to 686868 and get immediate support from a crisis responder through the Crisis Text Line, powered by Kids Help Phone. Live chat advice on www.jeunessejecoute.ca.
  • In Quebec (French): Quebec Association for Suicide Prevention: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)
  • Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention: Find a 24-hour crisis center.
  • Trans Lifeline – 1-877-330-6366. It offers complete anonymity and confidentiality.
  • COAST — 905-972-8338 or toll free: 1-844-972-8338.