May 01, 2022
BREAKING NEWS: On April 28, 2022, Eileen Wicks’ lawyer filed a ‘habeas corpus’ petition in the B.C. Supreme Court against the Vancouver Island Health Authority (aka Island Health) seeking Eileen Wick’s immediate release, stating that Eileen’s apprehension and continued detention are unlawful and in breach of her rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Read the court petition below.
On January 12, 2022 a squad of RCMP officers and social workers entered the Qualicum Beach home of Eileen and Trevor Wicks on Vancouver Island in British Columbia and, without warning, involuntarily abducted the couple. Months later, the Wicks continue to suffer in a fog of lies, deception, stone-walling and secrecy.
Eileen was apprehended under B.C.’s Adult Guardianship Act and transported to Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. Trevor Wicks was handcuffed, put in the back of a squad car and driven to Comox Valley Hospital where he was assessed under the B.C. Mental Health Act. He was released the same day after two physicians confirmed he had zero mental health issues.
Eileen Wicks continues to be detained in Nanaimo Hospital in a room the size of a small bedroom with two windows, one looking out onto the parking lot and the other, a window in her door looking out to the hospital ward, providing her with no privacy. Eileen often places a chair or garbage can against the door to prevent patients with psychiatric illnesses from entering her room. “It’s scary,” she says. “It’s just like a jail.” Eileen continues to ask, “Why am I in here? I’ve committed no crime.”
As reported in our last story, Trevor Wicks was told that Island Health intends to apply for a court order to force Eileen into long-term care. Doubling-down, lawyers representing Island Health and Nanaimo Regional General Hospital engaged the B.C. Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) which, in turn, hired a team of assessors to determine whether Eileen is capable of refusing Island Health’s “care” plan.
This latest story in our series about the Wicks case reveals a complex mosaic of powerful, publicly-funded state actors colluding to avoid exposure and accountability that keeps the public in the dark about the prevalence of these cases, and ensures many more victims of abuse of authority like Eileen and Trevor Wicks will occur. All on the public’s dime.
THERE’S MORE TO THIS CASE THAN YOU KNOW
“There is more to this case than you know,” said the Mountie to the MLA several months ago. According to Adam Walker, elected Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) for Parksville-Qualicum, the provincial riding where Eileen and Trevor Wicks live, a member of the local Oceanside RCMP detachment (the same detachment that abducted the Wicks) approached the MLA and volunteered that information to Walker.
As reported in an earlier story, MLA Walker repeated this unfounded innuendo to several other people, including the editor of Second Opinion QB. Another NDP government MLA used the same words to respond to their constituent’s concerns about the Wicks case. While some people utter the mantra, “we don’t know the whole story,” others decry this tactic as a smear job by authorities.
Who’s hiding “the whole story?” Island Health and the RCMP
Island Health still has not produced any records of verifiable evidence to substantiate whether Eileen Wicks is being held lawfully.
“The answer has to be in the records,” says Wicks, who submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request for Eileen’s records, in his legal capacity as her appointed Representative (substitute decision maker). When Nanaimo Hospital did not respond to — or even acknowledge — his request for records, Mr. Wicks asked his federal Member of Parliament (MP) for help.
In mid-February, after several email exchanges between the offices of MP Gord Johns and James Hanson, Vice-President of Clinical Services for Island Health, Hanson’s office said they “have confirmed receipt of Trevor Wicks’ FOI request… and are preparing the records.”
However, Island Health is now refusing to release any records about Eileen Wicks’ abduction and incarceration at Nanaimo Hospital, “until legal action has commenced.”
Island Health has told Patrick McGowan, the Wicks’ lawyer, that they intend to request a Court order to impose their “care” plan. The health authority’s stated goals, which they call a Support and Assistance Plan (SAP), are to force Eileen Wicks into long-term care, give the Wicks’ daughter control over her mother, and constrain Trevor Wicks’ access to Eileen. As one acquaintance commented, Island Health’s SAP “is basically a plan to keep Eileen and Trevor apart for the rest of their lives.”
The RCMP took a different approach in response to Trevor Wicks’ January 17, 2022 request for their records.
“The Royal Canadian Mounted Police is committed to assisting you with your request,” said Paige Peinsznski of the RCMP’s Access to Information and Privacy Branch in an email dated February 12, 2022. “In order to do so, an extension of 30 days beyond the 30-day statutory time limit is required… The extension is required due to a large volume of records and because meeting the original time limit would unreasonably interfere with operations.”
From a records perspective, the apprehension of Eileen and Trevor Wicks was a relatively small matter, yet the RCMP requested a total of 60 days to produce the records, as if it were a major police incident.
Even though they requested extra time to produce these records, the RCMP still managed to stonewall the delivery of the records, violating the federal Access to Information Act. To be fair to the Oceanside Detachment, they had actually released the records to the force’s Ottawa-based Access to Information and Privacy Branch on March 1, 2022.
Trevor Wicks received the records five weeks later, 81 days after the RCMP approved his request, exceeding the statutory time limit by several weeks — to deliver 16 pages of scant and incomplete information.
Island Health lawyers fabricate Public Guardian “expert” credentials
Trevor Wicks reported that his lawyer received a letter from Island Health stating that they had asked the B.C. Public Guardian and Trustee (PGT) to intervene in the Wicks’ case. According to Island Health’s lawyer, Melissa Perry of the firm Norton Rose Fulbright, the PGT has hired an “assessment team comprised of Dr. Deborah O’Connor and Dr. Jenny Tang” to determine whether Eileen is “capable of refusing” Island Health’s “Support and Assistance” plan to force her into long-term care. Bewildered by the increasing complexity of the distressing situation, Trevor Wicks could not understand, “why they just don’t ask her what she wants?”
At his request, Trevor was present with Eileen during one of the assessments. “They flew over from Vancouver — twice,” said Wicks, aghast at the cost of having “experts” flown to Vancouver Island. “They didn’t spend a lot of time when they were here.”
“It didn’t seem very professional to me,” says Trevor Wicks. “They asked Eileen if she understood what a ‘SAP,’ was, or whatever,” he says, stumbling over the acronym. “Eileen told them she didn’t know. Well, I don’t understand what it is either, so how can they expect Eileen to know? Why wouldn’t they sit down and explain it to her first, paragraph by paragraph? She could understand that,” says Wicks. “They didn’t do that.”
It turns out that the two doctors hired by the PGT to conduct the assessment, “Dr. Deborah O’Connor and Dr. Jenny Tang” are not doctors at all. There are no such persons registered with the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Deborah O’Connor is registered as a social worker with the B.C. College of Social Workers.
Jenny Tang is a registered psychologist, and not even a clinical psychologist; she has an advanced academic psychology degree. Ms. Tang is not a medical doctor, nor is she entitled to be called a doctor. It is deceitful for the academic honorific “Doctor” to be used in any capacity in conjunction with the fields where actual medical doctors (i.e. physicians) practice.
We’ve learned another troubling fact. Jenny Tang obtained her degree from George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon, a private Christian school. Many Christian organizations are very active in opposing MAID. It seems inappropriate for B.C.’s Public Guardian and Trustee to hire individuals with such affiliations, and to not disclose this important potential bias. Neither Eileen nor Trevor Wicks were informed of Ms. Tang’s potential prejudice against elders who anticipate choosing MAID in the future.
DECEPTION BY PREDATORY PUBLIC AGENCIES
Like many people, neither Eileen nor Trevor Wicks can comprehend why Eileen is still being incarcerated and they question why the authorities don’t “do something” to free Eileen. “If I held someone against their will and treated them like this, I’d be arrested,” Trevor says, flabbergasted. It begs the question — is it anyone’s responsibility to protect our rights?
There is no shortage of government-funded not-for-profit organizations purporting to provide information and assistance to patients and to seniors, in addition to the byzantine maze of inter-connected bureaucratic organizations within the B.C. Ministry of Health including so-called “watchdogs” like the B.C. Seniors Advocate.
In those first weeks after the abductions, still shell-shocked from the experience, Trevor Wicks was bombarded by people from a variety of agencies. Bewildered by the many agencies clamouring to “help,” only to later be revealed as working for, or in collaboration with, Island Health and the B.C. government, Trevor Wicks asked, “well, who is on our side?”
The Wicks case is not unique, and British Columbia is not alone in stripping seniors of their legal and human rights. While each province establishes their own laws and regulations, the pattern of abuse of elder rights — by authorities as well as family members or the public — is remarkably similar right across the country.
This presentation by lawyer Allan Garber at a conference in Edmonton, Alberta in April 2019 illustrates how elders’ basic human rights are being stripped in health care and legal settings. He describes family members who had to “sneak [their relative] out of a care facility just to meet with the person’s lawyer.” In another case, Garber describes how “with just the stroke of a pen, a doctor deprived [one woman] of her most cherished rights.” It’s not just personal liberty at stake but a person’s financial resources. Garber recounts how an elderly widow’s bank accounts were frozen and the money stolen by her daughter — without any notification by the bank or the courts.
What has emerged in the Wicks case is a web of deception and collusion practised by government agencies and other publicly-funded organizations that confuses, overwhelms and misleads members of the public who are not familiar with the inner workings of these powerful, interwoven bureaucracies. Here are some examples from the Wicks case.
Faux lawyer lends a sympathetic ear, then acts as informant for Island Health, RCMP
A week or two after the January 12th apprehensions, Trevor Wicks says he was contacted by a woman “from some legal organization I think, the name [of the organization] was something like the Law Institute or Elder Law something. I don’t know exactly what they do, but I told her the whole story.” But after a brief interaction, Wicks said “Jess” wasn’t really able to help after all.
It turns out that the organization Jess works for is the Canadian Centre for Elder Law (CCEL), a subsidiary of the British Columbia Law Institute. Both of these organizations are chock-a-block with lawyers, but they do not serve individual members of the public. Essentially, they draft policy and laws behind closed doors for the province of British Columbia in service of the interests of the government, not the public.
After hearing the Wicks’ story, Jess wrote in an email to Trevor Wicks, “My colleague [a lawyer] forwarded your story to folks within [the Ministry of] Health and the RCMP.”
In her email, Jess identified herself as CCEL’s Education and Outreach Coordinator. But, what Second Opinion QB learned is that Jess (Jessica) Fehrenbacher is also a social worker working for the Fraser Health Authority, a fact that Fehrenbacher did not disclose to Trevor Wicks. Wicks says he did not ask Ms. Fehrenbacher to provide any information to either the Ministry of Health or to the RCMP. All health authorities in B.C. are the responsibility of the Ministry of Health.
Trevor Wicks had no idea that he had been talking with someone who works for the same organization that abducted and incarcerated Eileen, an organization that is now choosing to fight in court to force Eileen into long-term care. He had no idea that he was helping these organizations gather evidence that could be used against the couple, while these same organizations — Island Health and the RCMP — continue to withhold evidence from him and Eileen. But Fraser Health social worker Jess Fehrenbacher knew this, and her “colleagues,” the lawyers at the Canadian Centre for Elder Law knew.
Island Health’s Patient Care Quality Office pulls a fast one worthy of Monty Python
Three weeks after Eileen’s abduction and detention at Nanaimo Hospital, desperate to bring Eileen home but getting nowhere fast, Trevor Wicks says Island Health staff suggested that he contact the Patient Care Quality Office (PCQO). Wicks says he spoke with a woman there named Maia Schulz who said she could help. Wicks says that Ms. Schulz appeared to be very sympathetic to the couple’s plight, but indicated that he should not tell anyone that she was helping him because she didn’t want her co-workers to find out or she could get in trouble. Schulz told him that the PCQO was “independent” of Island Health.
Trevor Wicks asked Ms. Schulz a simple question, “Why is Eileen Wicks being confined in NRGH?” Ms. Schulz emailed Mr. Wicks back saying, “In order to get a more descriptive response from the program, what do you think of the following?” Then, Ms. Schulz listed five elaborate process-related questions that she herself had drafted, and closed her email by saying, “I am happy to add or adjust and suggest we request a written response to our inquiry” [our emphasis]. Wicks says he didn’t think the questions Ms. Schulz drafted would do anything to help free Eileen.
To his surprise, about six weeks later Trevor Wicks received a “formal review letter” from the Island Health Patient Care Quality Office, purporting to be an official response to his “complaint.”
Wicks’ puzzlement turned into disbelief and dismay when he read Shulz’s letter. Not only did the PCQO do nothing to help discharge Eileen, the ”formal review letter” completely absolved Island Health of any wrongdoing in the abduction and continuing incarceration of Eileen Wicks. Nor did the “review letter” provide any evidence to substantiate their draconian actions. Coming full circle, Ms. Schulz returned to a polite, practiced sympathetic tone, “I hope this letter provides you with the information you were wishing to know… Be assured that the feedback you have shared with us provides the opportunity for rich conversations while reviewing our processes…”
Trevor Wicks says he did not believe he filed any formal complaint with the PCQO. His intentions were to free Eileen, not to fix Island Health’s processes. What many people have come to believe after their experience with the PCQO is that it acts more like a “risk management” group for Island Health, whose primary objective is to protect the organization, not the patient.
The “formal review letter” was written by Maia Schulz, and approved by Leesa Lyster, Director of the Island Health Patient Care Quality Office. Yes, the same Maia Schulz who drafted the questions that Mr. Wicks had rejected as not addressing his concerns, adjudicated this fictional complaint — based on questions she herself had drafted. It’s a scheme worthy of Monty Python.
In her “formal review letter,” Schulz also acknowledged “your local MLA” (Adam Walker) for providing a copy of Eileen Wicks’ Representation Agreement that appoints Trevor Wicks as her legal substitute decision maker, which Island Health (falsely) claims was the first time it was aware of that document.
While an MLA’s primary responsibility is to represent their constituents, it is also understood that MLAs have an interest in protecting their political party’s interests. Adam Walker, as a member of B.C.’s governing New Democratic Party, is in a blatant conflict of interest in that he may be inclined to protect the government’s reputation i.e., Island Health’s reputation. Another potential conflict of interest is that Adam Walker’s wife is a health care worker, reportedly working in Island Health.
B.C. Seniors Advocate rails against “newspaper stories”
B.C.’s Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie asked for a Zoom meeting with Trevor Wicks. This writer and two other individuals attended the February 17, 2022 meeting, at Mr. Wicks’ request.
The Seniors Advocate plied Mr. Wicks with many questions, including asking whether Eileen could walk! At one point, Ms. Mackenzie mentioned that Trevor Wicks had a “murder-suicide pact” with his wife. When this writer interrupted to point out that this was an unsubstantiated allegation by Island Health staff, and not fact, Mackenzie became flustered and railed that this information had appeared in a newspaper story, referencing a printed copy of a Second Opinion QB story. The Seniors Advocate appeared to have accepted Island Health’s allegation without having done an adequate investigation.
Towards the end of this hour-long meeting, Isobel Mackenzie pressured Trevor Wicks to get a lawyer. When he declined, she persisted, bizarrely offering to help obtain a lawyer for Mr. Wicks. This seemed an odd departure from the Seniors Advocate’s many prior statements in regards the Wicks, that her office is not permitted to act in individual cases. Ms. Mackenzie gave no explanation for this apparent change of policy. As the meeting was drawing to a close, Ms. Mackenzie briefly mentioned she would speak with Island Health. She did not seek Trevor Wicks’ permission to do so.
Trevor Wicks received two emails in the days following the Zoom meeting with the Seniors Advocate, one from Island Health inviting him to attend a meeting at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital on February 24 to discuss a care plan, and another from Isobel Mackenzie indicating that she was aware Island Health would be meeting with Mr. Wicks.
At the February 24th meeting, Lorraine Kirk, manager of Nanaimo Community Health Services for Island Health, told Trevor Wicks point blank, “Eileen isn’t coming home.” There was no opportunity for discussion, Ms. Kirk read aloud the “Support and Assistance Plan” (SAP) that would force Eileen into permanent long-term care, and advised Mr. Wicks that Island Health would take legal action if he didn’t approve of the SAP, and he could “fight them in court.” Mr. Wicks declined to consent to Island Health’s “care” plan.
During her meeting with Trevor Wicks, Isobel Mackenzie had emphasized her many years of experience working with seniors. Prior to being appointed B.C.’s first Seniors Advocate, heralded with much media fanfare, Ms. Mackenzie was the CEO of Beacon Community Services. Mackenzie took pride in being the Chief Executive Officer, as depicted in this 2011 story in Douglas Magazine. “When the Vancouver Island Health Authority asked Beacon in 2008 about taking on all home-care services on the South Island, the answer was an enthusiastic yes. Revenues jumped by close to $24 million as a result… While everything else was turning sour in 2009, Beacon Community Services doubled its annual revenues to $54 million. They went up by another $4 million this year.”
The name Beacon should also ring a bell with readers following the Wicks’ saga. A story published February 28, 2022 revealed the experience of Patrizia Abel who was also apprehended by a squad of police officers and social workers, and unlawfully detained by another Island Health hospital, the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, B.C. — as a result of false allegations made by Beacon home care workers. In an admission amounting to culpability (but without the need for court action) Beacon Community Services, Island Health and the Royal Jubilee Hospital released Patrizia Abel back into the care of her family. READ about Patrizia Abel’s experience here.
Practiced, polite language used to mask the reality on the ground
We were struck by one thing in many of the Wick’s interactions noted above — how often the people in health care and government agencies cloaked their messages in words that appear to be the opposite of their actions. Other advocates are noticing the same trend. The recently released all-party B.C. legislature report on policing recommends that police not be first responders for wellness checks. In an April 30, 2022 Vancouver Sun article, Civil rights advocates pan policing report, Garth Mullins, an opioid crisis advocate said, “There’s been a whole polite vocabulary that has emerged about how to talk to us, and we even have a minister of addictions that cries on our behalf. Yet, the deaths (from illegal toxic drug supply) still continue. And I worry that this report is going to do that with police. It’s going to teach police how to look and act nicer, it’s going to create a nicer, more well-appointed jail…”
THE PROBLEM WITH THE MEDIA
Many people have asked, “why aren’t other media outlets covering the Wicks story?” Readers say they are shocked that other media they contacted about this case appear to be completely and strangely disinterested. Virtually all of the mainstream media across Canada plus other independent media have been made aware of the story, to no avail.
This utter media silence is troubling, given that the Wicks case has serious implications for each and every person in British Columbia. Here are some possible reasons for this ominous media silence.
The media industry depends on advertising revenue, and the health industry is a big advertising revenue source for commercial media. The large and powerful health industry has a lot of clout. Health care unions and industry associations employ shills whose job it is to lobby media, as well as governments, in their quest for additional public funds, and publicity.
Also, reporters depend on access to government agents and elected officials — access that can be dangled or withheld depending on the reporter’s coverage. Muzzling reporters by restricting access, withholding information and spinning media releases without any critical examination is the disgraceful norm today. Mainstream media’s willing complicity in this game leaves the public uninformed, and provincial agencies like Island Health unaccountable, free to continue to wreak havoc on people’s lives without due process or consideration of the impact of their actions on innocent people like Eileen Wicks.
We are aware that some media outlets and independent journalists have tried to publish similar stories. In so doing, some media have been threatened, or abandoned efforts to cover the stories for fear that their government funding or government ad revenues will be in jeopardy. Some members of the media have been fired for informing the public about these cases. Some reporters just get posted to “Siberia.”
Bias and conflicts of interest can also impede fair and full reporting. Take Andrew MacLeod, British Columbia legislative bureau chief for The Tyee, an independent online B.C. media outlet. He was contacted by one of our readers in late January, urging him to report on the Wicks case. MacLeod responded that the case was a “strange” story that “doesn’t all add up… and needs investigation,” giving the impression MacLeod had never heard anything like it. MacLeod said he would add it to his list of things to look into but, to date, Macleod, whose wife reportedly works in health care, hasn’t published anything about the Wicks story.
But Second Opinion QB is aware that The Tyee’s BC legislature bureau chief is indeed familiar with these kinds of cases. MacLeod interviewed another Vancouver Island family about a very similar story over a decade ago. Andrew MacLeod reported nothing about that story either.
ON THE HOME FRONT
Every second or third day, Trevor Wicks travels from the couple’s home in Qualicum Beach to Nanaimo Hospital to be with Eileen. It’s a full day, the roundtrip travel alone is two hours on a good day. Their two or three hour visits are spent enjoying each other’s company, helping to relieve the extreme isolation Eileen has endured for almost four months.
Eileen and Trevor just want to go home and resume their lives together. A few weeks ago, after months of being refused any substantiated reasons why Eileen is still being detained, the couple tried to just walk out of the hospital together. Hospital security stopped them, saying they were “just doing our job.”
Island Health took this opportunity to impose even more restrictions on the couple. Trevor’s visits with Eileen are now limited to two hours, at a time specified by Nanaimo Hospital, and he must make an appointment for each visit. A monitor is present for the duration of the couple’s visits, at taxpayers’ expense. As Gary Mason wrote in the Globe and Mail on April 30, 2022 in his column entitled Canada’s health care system is crumbling, “The degree to which health care dollars are wasted or misspent is staggering.”
When back home, Trevor receives many phone calls from Eileen. He keeps busy, spring cleaning indoors and tending to the new veggie starts in their prolific raised garden beds. “I miss her so much,” he says. “It’s days like this that I’d love to be outdoors with Eileen.” His voice breaking and tears in his eyes, he turns back to collect the laundry off the line on a rare sunny spring day.
WATCH OTHER VIDEO PRESENTATIONS from 2019 conference on elder rights abuses by authorities.
To SIGN PETITION established by friends of Eileen and Trevor Wicks, go to Change.org/FreeEileenWicks