PORT COQUITLAM (NEWS 1130) – She’s the latest addition to an unfortunately growing list.
A Port Coquitlam woman with Down syndrome, who police believe died at the hands of her caregiver, will be remembered during the Disability Day of Mourning for the first time, more than a year after her death. Held every year on Mar. 1, the day honours the lives of disabled people murdered by the people who were supposed to be taking care of them.
In Burnaby and Kamloops, vigils will be remembering 54-year-old Florence Girard, who family members say weighed only 56 pounds when she was found dead in a private home in Oct. 2018. Her caregiver was charged with criminal negligence causing death and failing to perform a legal duty to provide necessaries just last month.
Necessaries of life refers to things needed to preserve life, such as food, shelter, medical attention, and protection from harm. The company that contracted the caregiver was also charged.
“Our officers arrived to this call of a sudden death. There was no indication of trauma or abuse, however, there was an indication that the victim had not received the care that she required,” Corporal Michael McLaughlin with Coquitlam RCMP said after the charge was announced on Jan. 29. “The official cause of death, as determined by the coroner, was malnourishment and starvation.”
McLaughlin added it was impossible for officers to not be affected by the investigation.
“These are not routine charges, this is not a routine investigation. But it was very important to us to give a voice to someone who couldn’t speak for herself,” he added. “This is a terribly sad story.”
The Disability Day of Mourning honours disabled victims of murder by celebrating their lives and sending a message that disability is not a justification for violence.
A vigil in Burnaby, to commemorate Girard and other victims, will be held at the Burnaby Neighbourhood House Community Hall at 3:00 p.m. on Sunday, Mar. 1. The vigil in Kamloops will be held the same day at the Riverside Park’s Rose Garden at 7:00 p.m.
The Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) held the first Disability Day of Mourning in 2012 following the murder of George Hodgins, a 22-year-old man with autism from California, by his mother.