No criminal charges for Quebec LTC home over COVID deaths

At least 40 residents died at the home during the height of the pandemic's first wave.

Montreal Gazette 3 minute read August 26, 2021

Quebec’s office of criminal prosecutions has announced it will not be laying any criminal charges in connection with the deaths at Dorval’s

CHSLD Herron, where at least 40 residents died during the pandemic’s first wave.

In a statement issued Thursday, the DPCP said it concluded what happened was not a criminal matter after a “rigorous analysis of the available evidence.”

“This decision in no way trivializes the tragic events that occurred at CHLSD Herron, nor does it mean that there was no civil fault or ethical misconduct that occurred,” the statement says.

“The DPCP sympathizes with the families of the deceased residents, who must not only mourn the loss of their loved ones but also live with the regret that they were unable to be by their sides because of the pandemic.”

The office said it had assigned a team of four prosecutors to review the evidence, which included an investigation by the Montreal police and several detailed reports from health authorities.

The tragedy at the Herron marked a turning point in the public’s perception of the pandemic in Quebec, exposing the horrific conditions inside some of the province’s long-term care homes once the virus began to spread.

A report ordered by the government later confirmed that when authorities were called to help at the home, they discovered frail residents who were severely dehydrated and covered in their own excrement.

The centre’s residents had by then been mostly deserted by staff, the report found, leaving only three employees in charge of 133 people.

The same report had criticized the home’s owners at the time, Gatineau-based Groupe Katasa, describing the group as uncooperative and noting it refused to turn over control of the centre after it was placed under trusteeship.

In March, the group settled a civil suit launched by the families for $5.5 million.

The suit had alleged residents had been subject to “inhumane and degrading maltreatment” as a result of the residence’s failure to ensure continued and adequate care.

What happened inside the home was supposed to be probed at a public coroner’s inquest last February, but the coroner overseeing the hearings had granted the group’s request to postpone them until after the DPCP’s decision.

Given the hearings are now scheduled for Sept. 7, the DPCP said it won’t be explaining its reasoning any further at this point to not interfere with the coroner’s work.

The decision will be explained to families following the inquest, it added.

This story will be updated.