November, 1998, 13-year-old Stephanie Jobin died after being physically
restrained in an Ontario group home. Stephanie suffered from autism
and additional mental disorders. On the day of her death, Stephanie
was attending a specialized school for specially challenged children.
That day, the school used a method of “restraint therapy.”
Stephanie was physically retrained for 90 minutes. Before returning
to the group home that day, the school staff contacted the home and
advised the staff that the child had been in restraint therapy. After
returning to the group home, Stephanie was seated for supper. During
the mealtime, she threw an article of food from her plate.
Three group home responded by using restraint therapy on Stephanie.
Again, as she had been restrained during school, she was in restraints
for 90 minutes. Three group home staff then placed the child in
room for “time out.” After her time out was served,
the group home staff came to retrieve Stephanie. As the group home
staff approached her, Stephanie reacted to them as if they were
a threat. The three group home staff members then forced her face
down onto a large beanbag inside the living room of the group home.
One staff member sat on Stephanie’s ankles, another on the
center of her back and the third held the child’s head down
with their hands. After 15 minutes had passed, the staff members
noticed that the 13-year-old’s body had fallen limp and her
head had turned blue. Stephanie Jobin had died from asphyxiation.
A series of court hearings were held, and her death was ruled “accidental.”
A trial held under jury yielded a new ruling. The jury ruled the
girl’s death “undetermined.”
In March 1999, four months after Stephanie’s death, 13-year-old
William Edgar died from asphyxiation because of a physical restraint
in another Ontario group home. A coroner’s inquest was called
to investigate the events surrounding this death. The inquest ran
from June to August 2001. Evidence was presented on issues like
the use of restraints, training for group home staff, and provincial
standards for group homes in the province of Ontario. The jury’s
verdict ruled William Edgar’s death a homicide, and made 60
recommendations to improve quality and safety of group home care
As we mourn lost lives, we also measure how our response can affect
that human tragedy. The time to effectively respond to this tragedy
is now. The Federation shall be ardent and resolved in these endeavors
until it has found a peaceful resolution.