Justice With Dignity - Committee to Remember Kimberly Rogers

Kimberly Rogers Inquest Alerts

Inquest begins into welfare mother's death
by DARREN YOURK

Globe and Mail
October 15, 2002

 

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 this case."

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.

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