Memorial planned, call for inquest into deaths of Manitoba mother, children

WINNIPEG – A memorial service was being planned Tuesday for a Manitoba woman and her two children whose deaths have sparked a call for a provincial inquest.

A service for Lisa Gibson, 32, her two-year-old toddler Anna and infant son Nicholas is to be held Thursday afternoon in Stonewall, just north of Winnipeg.

Gibson’s body was found in the Red River Saturday, three days after her children were found alone and unresponsive in the family’s Winnipeg home. They were pronounced dead in hospital. Gibson’s husband was not at home at the time.

Police have released few details, but the head of Winnipeg’s firefighters union said first responders found the children in a bathtub.

“They removed the children out of the tub and began immediately to work on the children trying to revive them,” Alex Forrest said.

“We have had some success in the past with water drownings in being able to revive children quite some time after the incident. The firefighters worked right up until going to the hospital and unfortunately, tragically, it just wasn’t meant to be.”

The discovery left most of the firefighters needing counselling and time off, Forrest added.

Winnipeg police and community services agencies have scheduled a clinic of sorts at a community centre for Wednesday night to offer emotional support to neighbours.

Police have said while it may appear Gibson killed her children, they are not ready to rule out other possibilities and are continuing to investigate.

There have been media reports that Gibson sought treatment for postpartum depression after the birth of her son in the spring. A spokeswoman for the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority said Tuesday privacy laws prevent the release of any information, but the matter is being reviewed.

“We have looked into (Gibson’s) interactions with our services and have shared the information we gathered with the chief medical examiner for his investigation,” Heidi Graham wrote in an email.

“The initial information we have is that the care provided by (the health region) followed normal protocols for postpartum care.”

The ball is now in the court of the chief medical examiner, who has the authority to order an inquest into the deaths. Such a review would be run by a provincial court judge and would include sworn testimony from witnesses, including medical experts. The examiner’s office did not return phone calls Tuesday.

The head of the Canadian Schizophrenia Society said a provincial inquest is needed to find out whether the health-care system handled Gibson appropriately.

“Many in the public would want to know … did we do everything we could for her?” Chris Summerville said.

“The question would be was there a thorough suicide-risk assessment made and … was she being regularly seen?”

Manitoba Attorney General Andrew Swan also has the authority to order an inquest. A spokesperson for the minister’s office said that the government’s practice is to leave the decision to the chief medical examiner.

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