Sylvie Salomon holds two photos of her son, Maxim Baril-Blouin, near the Yukon River on March 16. Baril-Blouin passed away while in custody in 2018. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)

Sylvie Salomon holds two photos of her son, Maxim Baril-Blouin, near the Yukon River on March 16. Baril-Blouin passed away while in custody in 2018. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)

Family of man who died in custody in 2018 still seeking answers

Maxim Baril-Blouin, 26, passed away while in court-ordered care in Edmonton

Two and a half years after Maxim Baril-Blouin died while in custody at the Edmonton Remand Centre, his mother is still seeking answers to the circumstances surrounding his death.

“To me, it’s insane that someone can die and we close the file,” Sylvie Salomon told the News in an interview on March 9.

Salomon has been searching for clarity around her adopted son’s death since his passing in July 2018, and says she’s been mostly stone-walled in the effort.

Baril-Blouin, 26, had fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD) and required constant supervision, leading him to be ordered out of the territory for care by the Yukon Review Board.

On June 19, 2018, he was arrested in Spruce Grove, Alberta for being verbally aggressive to a care worker. He spent the next three weeks in limbo between the Edmonton Remand Centre and the Royal Alexandra Hospital.

Baril-Blouin pled guilty in Edmonton to uttering threats on July 11 and was sentenced to 30 days in jail with credit for time served.

Salomon explained that Baril-Blouin was technically released on July 11, with a warrant issued by the Yukon Review Board that would have brought him back to the Yukon.

She was expecting a call that weekend detailing her son’s return home.

“On Saturday, the 13th, I get a call that my son is dead, in the Remand Centre, to my disbelief,” Salomon said.

“Starting there, all the doors to social services or anyone was closed, no one will tell me more than what I knew — which was that he took some drugs in jail and died from that.”

Baril-Blouin was one of eight Edmonton Remand Centre inmates to overdose on fentanyl and carfentanil that weekend, according to incident reports detailed by CBC Edmonton at the time.

Salomon explained that her incredulity at the situation stems from larger problems than the events directly leading to his death.

“To me, the problems have always been bigger than that,” Salomon said.

Baril-Blouin’s behaviour reports linked verbal aggression to his FASD, she explained, and should have been managed by the care workers trained for that level of disability.

In addition, Salomon says her son had inexplicably stopped taking his medication in the days preceding his arrest.

“My son didn’t take his meds for more than two weeks, and some of them were for his behaviour,” she said.

Salomon argues that it’s incumbent on the Yukon Review Board to investigate incidents affecting people under their care, even if they took place outside of the territory. She has tried to meet with Health and Social Services officials in the last two years, to no avail, she said.

“No one is finding the answers, so I keep pushing. I’m the only one looking into what happened,” Salomon said.

At Salomon’s request, NDP MLA Liz Hanson queried the government on Baril-Blouin’s death during the legislative question period on March 8.

Justice Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee responded that she felt it was inappropriate to comment on the incident in the assembly, but reassured the House that her department was in communication with the affected family. Government spokespeople within the Justice and Health and Social Services departments are traditionally unable to comment on individuals’ specific cases.

Salomon refuted the claim that the government was in communication with her. She expressed concern that if the incident isn’t properly investigated and reviewed, other individuals may be at risk of receiving out-of-territory care without any promise of oversight.

Wenda Bradley, executive director of the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Society Yukon (FASSY), told the News that her organization consistently advocates against out-of-territory care.

When someone with FASD is removed from their home community, it makes it difficult for them to return, she explained.

“People with FASD are very much responsive to the environment and if you teach them one thing in one environment, they most often aren’t able to translate it to another environment,” Bradley said.

People like Maxim who required intensive care are generally not able to receive it in the Yukon, however. While there are some local housing options with 24-hour support, they don’t provide the high-level care Maxim would have needed.

There have been several instances in the Yukon where people with FASD have lost their housing after becoming involved with the justice system, Bradley continued.

“The system hasn’t been able to acknowledge that this person will probably get in trouble with the law again. And if they do, how are we going to handle it without taking away their housing?” Bradley said.

“That’s happened to three individuals that I know of — they’re all homeless right now, we haven’t been able to get them rehoused.”

Bradley expressed optimism that it is possible to introduce more comprehensive FASD support in the territory.

“We need to be careful in preventing these tragedies, because they are preventable … We have the skills here, and we just need to get the will to do this.”

Contact Gabrielle Plonka at gabrielle.plonka@yukon-news.com

Whitehorse Correctional Centre

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