Family in search of answers after father of two dies after ‘confrontation’ at Edmonton Remand Center

“It’s been hell, absolute hell. We can’t get answers. They won’t tell us anything.”

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The mother of a man who died last month in an Edmonton jail says she is being kept in the dark about what happened.


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This week, the Alberta Department of Justice confirmed that an inmate died in hospital after an “incident” on Aug. 24 at the Edmonton Remand Center. The police have considered that death is not criminal.

Authorities are not releasing the identities of those who die in custody, but Marilyn Hayward said the victim is her son, Daniel Winston Robinson, a 50-year-old father of two. She said she was in jail for an unpaid fine.

“It’s been hell, absolute hell,” he said. “We cannot get answers. They won’t tell us anything. “

The Edmonton Remand Center is the largest jail in Canada, built for nearly 2,000 inmates, most of them on remand.

Hayward said he last spoke to his son on Aug. 23, after a police officer pulled him over for a broken taillight and discovered an unpaid 2019 fine for driving without insurance. The exact details of the fine are unclear: Robinson’s court records do not mention a fine and show no charges since 2005. The Justice Department did not confirm why Robinson was in jail.


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“I was hoping the fine could be paid the next day so I could go to (a new job in Grande Prairie),” Hayward said. “He also told me that he would call me the next day.”

She never heard from him.

According to the police, the agents were called on August 24 to investigate a “confrontation” between a prisoner and the staff of the remand center. A spokesman for the Justice Ministry said the prison initiated an emergency code and called an ambulance to transport the prisoner to hospital, where he died on August 30.

Police initially launched a criminal investigation, but closed the investigation after an autopsy on September 7 found the death to be non-criminal.

Hayward and her youngest son, Michael, visited Robinson at the Royal Alexandra Hospital after learning of what happened. He said Robinson was unconscious and appeared to have been beaten, with marks on his face and wrists, which they believe to be handcuffs. Doctors told Hayward that her son suffered cardiac arrest and had little brain activity.


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Daniel Robinson, 50, died on August 30, 2021, after a stint in the Edmonton Pretrial Detention Center for an unpaid fine.  Her family says they don't know what happened.
Daniel Robinson, 50, died on August 30, 2021, after a stint in the Edmonton Pretrial Detention Center for an unpaid fine. Her family says they don’t know what happened. Supplied

He died a week later, after his family decided to take him off life support.

Hayward says she has not been allowed to see a formal autopsy report on her son. He said authorities have told him this is because the case is still under investigation. Jason van Rassel, a spokesman for the Justice Ministry, said an internal review and external fatality investigation is carried out every time an inmate dies in custody.

Hayward managed to get some details about what happened from a pretrial detention center employee in the COVID isolation unit, where Robinson was being held.

“The first person I spoke to told me that Danny refused to wear a mask when leaving that area of ​​the jail,” he said. “He got confrontational. They had to get the doctor to give him a sedative. “He was told that the sedative was midazolam, a drug that slows breathing. A short time later, he was found unconscious.


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Hayward is skeptical of that explanation, because her son had no trouble wearing a mask and probably would have been wearing one on the COVID unit anyway. As far as she knows, her $ 2,800 fine had been paid and she was leaving the detention center.

Doctors told her that Robinson may have lost consciousness due to midazolam, which can be dangerous if administered incorrectly. She still does not know the exact cause of her death.

Hayward, now 68, said he will continue to fight to find out what happened to his son, because he always stood up for people who were in trouble.

“Because other people are being hurt (on remand), I feel like I have to do this for Danny,” he said. “I promised him that even before I died, I would fight.”

An aerial photo of the Edmonton Remand Center while it was still under constriction in 2012.
An aerial photo of the Edmonton Remand Center while it was still under constriction in 2012. SunMedia

Chain of recent deaths

Since 2018, 31 people have died in Alberta’s prison system, which houses pretrial detainees and those serving short sentences. Fifteen of them have been to the Edmonton Remand Center, including four deaths in 2021.


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Several families have spoken out about the loss of a loved one in pretrial detention. Like Hayward, all expressed concern about the lack of transparency in the process.

In March 2020, Jonathan Wayne Lee Anderson died in hospital after a period in pretrial detention. Authorities say he was involved in two altercations with police and prison staff before his death.

In June 2020, 19-year-old Erik Cabry died in hospital after telling pretrial detention staff that he was feeling unwell.

Then, in January 2021, Timothy James McConnell, a 23-year-old accused of burglary and robbery, died of an alleged suicide. His mother said McConnell had trouble accessing addiction and mental health treatment in pretrial detention due to pandemic restrictions.

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