The death of a newly admitted inmate at Vancouver Island Regional Correctional Centre has devastated his family and friends, and left them searching for answers.
David Gordon Ivany, 26, died alone from an apparent illicit-drug overdose in his jail cell on June 21.
The B.C. Coroners Service is investigating how Ivany died. B.C. Corrections will also review the circumstances.
Ivany was arrested by West Shore RCMP on June 18 and charged with flight from police and breaching his probation. He was transferred to the jail the next day and was scheduled to appear in Western Communities provincial court on June 23.
If Ivany’s death is confirmed to be from an overdose, it raises the question of how he either brought drugs into the jail or got them there, especially when he was placed in isolation under new protocols put in place to keep COVID-19 out of correctional centres.
It also raises the question of how often he was checked while being held alone in the induction unit, separate from the rest of the jail.
Police went to Joanna Ivany’s door late at night to notify her that her brother had died in jail from a drug overdose.
“My question to the cops was how could it be a drug overdose if he was in your care for 24 hours before he died,” said Joanna, who went to the jail the next day to collect his body.
“Everyone just wants answers. If he was taken care of properly, none of this would have happened. It could have been prevented if they did their job and just didn’t look at him as another First Nations person in this place.”
Friend Rob Iverson said Ivany’s death doesn’t make any sense because he didn’t use hard drugs.
“I just want closure. We don’t understand how this happened,” Iverson said. “It’s causing a lot of disturbance. Were all unsettled.”
Ivany liked marijuana but didn’t do heroin or fentanyl, said Iverson.
“No one said anything about a package exploding in him or anything like that. And David doesn’t do that. He’s not into this kind of thing. So how did he come across the drugs? Was he around other people? Could anyone have done this to him?” asked Iverson.
Ivany had a long criminal record but was lively and vibrant, said Iverson, who spent time in jail with him. “He was young and he lived a crazy life and had a lot of issues growing up, but this is not what he deserves. I just know when I was on that unit, them checking on me was them looking in a window. A person lying there, wide-awake watching TV doesn’t looked that much different from someone passed away, watching TV.
“There’s no way they can say they checked on him because they don’t step into that cell and there are no video cameras in the cells.”
If Ivany had been placed in the general population, not isolation, he would have had people around him and been looked after, Iverson said.
“Nine times out of 10 when people drop, they’re rescued. They’re given the ability to live again. He had nobody. I know it’s a pandemic, but there’s a right way to treat people and there’s a wrong way. If you go to those rooms, you’re not doing anything as it is except for sitting, dwelling, looking at things in a depressing time. A moment of being alone is pretty dangerous.”
B.C. Corrections said it maintains zero-tolerance for illegal drugs within correctional centres and has stringent security measures to deal with contraband, including drugs. It has invested nearly $1.9 million in body scanners to enhance drug interdiction.
During the first 24 hours of admission, all individuals receive a physical and mental health assessment. Trained staff provide addictions support and counselling. Inmates also have access to opioid replacement treatment and can participate in the methadone/suboxone program.
“Mail screening, cell searches, video surveillance and other measures also help prevent contraband from entering our centres,” said a statement from the Public Safety Ministry. “However, we know that people suffering from addiction will sometimes go to extraordinary lengths to meet their needs,” said the ministry.
After a two-week intake screening, asymptomatic inmates might be double-bunked on living units, subject to risk assessments and operational protocol.
Father’s Day will never be the same, said Joanna.
“He was taken away from this planet way too early and I will never know why. The day he left us, my life felt like it ended as well,” she said.
“David was the best brother in the world. Tough on the outside but such a softy at heart. His smile was contagious. His laughter could fill the world.”
Saanich police, who were called to the sudden death at the jail, do not believe anything criminal in nature was involved, said Sgt. Damian Kowalewich.