NSGEU supports report into death of Howard Hyde | National Union of Public and General Employees

NSGEU supports report into death of Howard Hyde

'The report is in many cases complimentary of our members and the good work they do.' - Joan Jessome.

Joan Jessome, president of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU/NUPGE)Halifax (13 Dec. 2010) - The Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU/NUPGE) supports the findings of an official report into the death of Howard Hyde, a 45-year-old musician diagnosed with schizophrenia who died while in custody in a Halifax jail in November 2007.

The union says it will push for implementation of recommendations contained in the report, which was prepared by Justice Anne Derrick.

The NSGEU represents 26 members who had contact with Hyde during his last days and who testified during the inquiry. Dave Roberts was legal counsel for the NSGEU during the inquiry.

“We are pleased with the report," says NSGEU president Joan Jessome.

"The report is in many cases complimentary of our members and the good work they do. We agree with Justice Derrick's overall conclusion that we need to create a culture of respect for people with mental illness and we agree with the recommendations she has made to help us do that."

Justice Derrick identified the struggle against the restraint of the guards as precipitating changes in Hyde's metabolic action that can cause the heart to stop. The report concludes that he did not die of positional asphyxia and that the restraint used by correctional officers' was reasonable, proportionate and consistent with their training.

“We are pleased that 30 out of our 38 recommendations submitted to the inquiry were adopted in this report," Jessome said.

"The recommendations include improvements in training, resources and collaboration between the department of health, department of justice, policing, corrections, sheriff services, the mental health community and the unions that represent these workers. Be sure that we will be allocating resources to push for the implementation of the report's recommendations.”

Recommendations include:

  • Creation of a new position in government - director of mental health strategy - whose mandate will be to oversee and be accountable for the province's mental health strategy.
  • Increasing the proportion of the mental health budget directed to the provision of treatment and support in community settings.
  • The province should examine how mental health services for persons in conflict with the law can be enhanced outside of the Halifax regional municipality.
  • The province should invest in and/or identify supportive short-term housing units for persons with a mental illness who have been arrested and who would otherwise have no immediate housing options.
  • Tasers (conducted energy weapons) should not be applied to persons in a state of agitation due to an emotional or psychological disturbance except as a last resort once it has been determined that crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques have not been effective.
  • The Capital District Health Authority (CDHA) should staff the offender health unit at the Central Nova Scotia Correctional Facility (CNSCF) with registered nurses employed by Capital Health on an around the clock basis. At least one nurse on each shift should have significant training and experience and an active interest in mental health issues.
  • Training should have as its overarching purpose the development of a culture of respect and empathy for persons with mental illness in the justice system.
  • The department of justice should provide crisis intervention training for all correctional officers employed at CNSCF.


The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 340,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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