This past January was the 13th death at Elgin Middlesex Detention Centre (EMDC) since 2009.
“13 deaths is 14 too many.” Janice Pigeau, mother of James Pigeau.
The 13th death was that of 32 year old James Pigeau. Pigeau was found on his cell floor and there has been no determined cause of death.
“We don’t have the full coroner’s report, we gotten some of it, but the investigation is still going on.” said Lynn Pigeau, James’ older sister by 16 years.
James Pigeau was the youngest of eight children in his family. His mother and sister described him as a kind soul who was eager to help anyone. Lynn Pigeau said that he craved attention and praise from other people, especially from his mother.
He struggled with ADHD early on, and would later be diagnosed with a severe mental health issue after the horrifying death of a friend.
From his time served at EMDC, James formed a friendship with another inmate, Adam Kargus. Located in the same wing of EMDC, the two men would bond over artwork. Kargus taught Pigeau about shading and creating depth in his sketches.
On October 31st, 2013 Adam Kargus was killed in his cell.
His cellmate at the time, Anthony George, was convicted on May 29th 2018, on charges of second degree murder in Kargus’ case. George is serving a life sentence with a chance of parole in 10 years.
According to Lynn, he asked to have Kargus removed from George’s cell multiple times.
“He held on to guilt because of that,” she said. “That the way he was. If he felt like he wasn’t helping anyone he would feel guilty about it.”
Shortly after Kargus’ death, Janice Pigeau says her son was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and psychotic shock, and sent to St. Lawrence treatment centre.
“They (St. Lawrence) were the only ones getting through to him. He knew he needed to be there.”
After his release from St. Lawrence Treatment, James was sent to live with his mother where he survived on a steady cocktail of up to 17 pills a day. His mother described his mood as constant extremes.
“Some days he wouldn’t eat, other days you couldn’t fill him up” she said. “He would sleep for days, then stay awake for days.”
During his stay home, his behaviours worsened and led to night terrors. Janice described the terrors as “scary”, the “worst thing a parent can listen to (their) child go through”.
“That’s why it didn’t really shock me too much when he turned to illegal drugs.” said Janice Pigeau.
James Pigeau landed in EMDC once more late last March. He was applying for bail after waiting months for his trial.
Pigeau began to reach out to media and document his experiences and the changes he felt needed to be made at the correctional facility. He kept a journal which he would write in frequently. Both his mother and sister read the journal, and cite his passionate words for change as the reason they created their group, Justice for Inmates.
“He was in a safe place. I never thought that something like that could happen when he was supposed to be safe.” Janice Pigeau on her son James’ death.
Lynn and Janice Pigeau encourage anyone with a similar situation to reach out to Justice for Inmates Facebook group.
“I think it’s comforting for other families to know, ‘you’re not alone’” said Lynn. “There’s people that understand and get what you’re going through.”
On Sunday June 3rd, the group will be rallying outside of EMDC. With hand painted crosses for inmates who have died in a correctional facility.