Rogers Inquest Alerts
Inquest begins into welfare mother's death
by DARREN YOURK
Globe and Mail
The inquest into
the death of Kimberly Rogers - found dead in her sweltering apartment
during a heat wave on Aug. 11, 2001 - began Tuesday morning in Sudbury,
Ont. Ms. Rogers had been serving six months under house arrest for welfare
fraud. She was eight months pregnant at the time of her death. The official
cause of her death has never been released.
Before the inquest, Coroner Dr. David Eden granted public-interest standing
to the Ontario Social Safety Network (OSSN) and the Steering Committee
on Social Assistance. Both groups are represented by the Income Security
Advocacy Centre (ISAC).
"We extend condolences to the family and friends of Kimberly Rogers.
We know the next six weeks will be a difficult time for them," ISAC
legal director Jacquie Chic said. "We believe it is vitally important
that the jury has the opportunity to examine all the issues and factors
relating to the tragedy of Kimberly Rogers' death last August."
OSSN spokeswoman Barbara Anello said she hopes the inquest "sheds
light on the dangers of cutting the social safety net and imposing discriminatory
penalties on vulnerable people like Kimberly Rogers."
A straight-A social-services student at Cambrian College, Ms. Rogers had
pleaded guilty to defrauding the provincial government by taking student
loans while still collecting welfare cheques. Her welfare benefits were
cut off and she was ordered to repay the government about $13,300. The
ruling left her unable to pay her monthly bills.
A published newspaper report in August said that Ms. Rogers died of an
overdose of a prescription antidepressant, not heat stroke or hyperthermia
from being confined to her apartment.
The National Anti-Poverty Organization says the results of the inquest
will have far-reaching impacts. "Issues and recommendations emerging
from this case are poised to have profound impact on the struggle for
strengthened social safety nets, on economic justice, on public policy,
on the anti-poverty movement," NAPO said in a release.
"How we challenge governments on a myriad of issues - the decimation
of income support programs, systemic obstacles to achieving economic and
social justice, federal abandonment of responsibility, flaws in conditional
sentencing schemes, the fallacy of welfare fraud - will be impacted by
On May 14, 2001, Ms. Rogers launched a case under the Charter of Rights
that challenged the constitutional validity of Ontario Works regulations
that suspended benefits after a conviction of welfare fraud. Ms. Rogers'
was able to have her welfare benefits reinstated May 31, but the court
had yet to rule on her challenge at the time of her death.
MPPs demand inquest
mother guilty of fraud challenges welfare ban in court