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Dead End Streets

 Megaphone (Canada) 20 May 2019

(Originally published: 01/2010) A large crowd gathered in Vancouver’s Grandview Park to remember Curtis Brick, an aboriginal man who lived and died on the city’s streets. It was the same park in which Brick had spent his last day alive, lying in the grass in the sweltering heat. Carrie-May Siggins, of Vancouver’s street paper Megaphone, looks into Brick’s final hours and the alleged discrimination and mistreatment on the part of British Columbia’s Ambulance Service which led to the local man’s death. (646 words) - By Carrie-May Siggins


Courtesy of Megaphone

A large crowd gathered in Vancouver's Grandview Park to remember Curtis Brick, an aboriginal man who lived and died on the city's streets. It was the same park in which Brick had spent his last day alive, lying in the grass in the sweltering heat.


About 10 meters from the memorial service, in the shade of a large tree, three men sat watching the group and talking among themselves. All three live on the street and knew Brick well.


"He was a really fucking good guy," said one man who would not give his name. "He helped other people, even if he didn't have anything."


"I knew him for five-and-a-half years," said another. He gave his name as Gerald, and lay in the grass propped up on his elbows, staring in the direction of the memorial, his long black braid hanging between his shoulder blades. "He was always asking about your day, but he never said anything about himself. He was peaceful, quiet. He was cordial."


"We knew something had happened to Curtis, but we didn't know what. He never talked about himself," said the third, who also declined to give his name.


This something may have been a fall six years ago from a balcony, breaking Brick's neck and back. He had suffered chronic pain since his injury, and often turned to alcohol for relief.


On July 29, the day of Brick's death, Eric Schweig, an outreach worker visiting Vancouver, was walking past Grandview Park at 8 a.m. when he noticed a man lying in the grass. When he passed again at 4 p.m. the man was still lying in the same spot, but in obvious distress.


"His hands and feet were convulsing," says Schweig. "He was roasting, dehydrated. He couldn't move and could barely talk."


According to Schweig, he asked Mr. Brick if he had drank Lysol and Mr. Brick nodded yes. Schweig first called Jenifer Brusseau-Mallett, an employee of the Vancouver Aboriginal Transformative Justice Services Society, and then he called Safe Ride, a rescue service offered by the Vancouver police for those living on the streets.


While they waited, Schweig, Brousseau-Mallett  and her 12-year-old cousin wet towels with cold water from the water fountain and laid them on Brick to cool him down. Schweig describes the scene as surreal-the park was full that day. Young mothers sat by the playground, couples walked through the park and kids played in the grass. Despite Brick's obvious distress, no one stopped to ask about his condition or to offer help.


When no one arrived after about 25 minutes, Schweig called 911. He asked if they had received a call and they told him no. After calls from the media, BC Ambulance Service looked into the incident. Their records show that one call came in at 5 p.m. pertaining to Mr. Brick and that the Fire Responder and an ambulance with "lights and sirens" arrived 12-and-a-half minutes later.


They found that this was a fair and consistent response time.


According to Brousseau-Mallett, once the paramedics arrived, she saw one nudge Brick's foot and bark at him to "Get up!" She also claims that a paramedic put the mask on Brick so roughly that it caused his nose to bleed. Schweig claims one of the paramedics leaned over while Brick was still on the ground and said, "That's what you get for drinking Lysol."


A group of aboriginal children had formed around the fire truck. According to Schweig, the same paramedic told him to "get your kids out of here."


"This is not just joking," says Schweig. "It's institutionalized racism."


BC Ambulance Services declined to comment on the supposed statements made.


The 46-year-old Brick died later that evening in the hospital.


The memorial moved to the patch of grass on which Brick was found. Sage was burnt and a drumming circle pounded out a prayer of loss.

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