Families of killer nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer's victims apply to participate in inquiry

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A hearing for a public inquiry into long-term care in Ontario began dramatically Tuesday when a woman who survived the murderous rampage of then-nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer asked to participate.

“I don’t have faith or trust anymore,” said Beverly Bertram, whom Wettlaufer tried to kill while providing home care in Ingersoll.

Bertram was among dozens of people and groups seeking to participate in the inquiry next year that will examine how former nurse Wettlaufer was able to murder eight nursing home residents and try to kill more, including Bertram.

Twenty-nine people and 15 groups have applied to participate when the inquiry gets to substantive issues in June. Among them are relatives of victims Wettlaufer injected with deadly levels of insulin.

That Bertram attended herself rather than rely on a lawyer came as a surprise; until now, she had been so traumatized by Wettlaufer that she struggled to leave her home.

The high drama of her appearance stood in contrast to hearings this week that have more of a procedural tone; those who applied before a November deadline to be heard were routinely granted their requests by Justice Eileen Gillese, who is presiding over the inquiry. Most of her questions were meant to tease out which applicants were seeking public funding for their costs, with the final decisions on participation and public funding expected in January by Ontario’s attorney general.

The bigger barrier to participation is money. The province can pay up to $190 an hour for a participant to hire a senior counsel, but the going hourly rate ranges between $500 and $750. Applicants approved for public funding cannot be charged more by their lawyers than what the province pays.

That means lawyers who represent families have to be selective about how they represent their clients in a way government agencies and large corporations do not. The latter aren’t seeking compensation, according to the Long-Term Care Public Inquiry, which lists all the applicants at its website.

Those applicants include the families of victims, the corporate parents of three nursing homes in which Wettlaufer inflicted most of her harm, associations that represent health professionals and nursing homes, the professional college that regulates nurses and advocates for elderly and the disadvantaged.

They also include Ontarians who have seen loved one suffer in nursing homes but not at the hands of Wettlaufer, including Barbara Timmerman, who told The Free Press she sought participation in the hope that systemic problems will be corrected and the level of care improved.

“(I want to be) a voice for ordinary people who are dedicated (to helping loved ones in nursing homes) but are exhausted,” Timmerman told Gillese.

Wettlaufer pleaded guilty in the spring to eight counts of first-degree murder, four counts of attempted murder and two counts of aggravated assault, all involving vulnerable people in her care.

She carried out the murders by insulin injections between 2007 and 2014 at two long-term care homes in the region, Caressant Care in Woodstock and Meadow Park in London.

Wettlaufer was sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years. Her crimes, and how she managed to go so long without them being detected, thrust Ontario’s long-term care system — more than 600 homes, with more than 70,000 residents — and its oversight under a harsh political spotlight, with the province calling the inquiry in the fallout of the court case.

Home care provider St. Elizabeth didn’t apply to take part in the inquiry before a recent deadline, even though Wettlaufer worked for the agency when she tried to kill Bertram.

The commission will decide who participates and whether their role will be limited or full, the latter including the right to gain access to documents, examine witnesses, make submissions and get advanced notice of documents or statements to be introduced in evidence.

The real action by the inquiry begins in June, when hearings and documentary evidence may provide answers to key questions that will not only shape the direction of the inquiry but open the door to civil lawsuits.

Answers uncovered in an inquiry can’t be used directly in a civil lawsuit, but can guide families of victims to decide if they have a realistic chance of recovering damages for their losses, lawyers say.

Wettlaufer killed seven residents at the Woodstock home before she was fired for repeated medication-related errors, only to go on to work for the London home where her final victim lived.




  • 29 people, mainly or exclusively the families of victims
  • Corporate owners of three nursing homes where Wettlaufer worked
  • Nursing home companies and associations, Caressant Care, Jarlette Health Services and Revera Long-Term Care Inc.
  • Ontario Long-Term Care Clinicians, Ontario Nurses Association, Ontario Personal Support Workers Association, Ontario Public Service Employees Union and Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario
  • Advocacy Centre for the Elderly, Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition and Ontario Association of Residents’ Councils
  • College of Nurses of Ontario and Ministry of the Attorney General


Justice Eileen Gillese will lead a public inquiry into the circumstances and systemic issues that enabled nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer to murder seven residents at Woodstock’s Caressant Care and kill an eighth at London’s Meadow Park, part of a killing rampage that also included four murder attempts and two serious assaults.

Ontario’s Liberal government has limited the scope of the inquiry to failings that played some role in Wettlaufer’s killing spree.

Gillese must complete a report by July 31, 2019, which will later be made public but presumably well after the next Ontario election that must occur by June 2018.

Ontario New Democrats are demanding the Liberals expand the inquiry to include systemic failures not connected to Wettlaufer crimes such as funding, safety of residents and staff and quality of care.


Sept. 16, 2016:

Registered nurse Elizabeth Wettlaufer, 49, of Woodstock, checks herself into the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto. Later that month, Toronto police contact Woodstock police about a possible homicide investigation.

Sept. 30:

Wettlaufer resigns her membership with College of Nurses of Ontario

Oct. 6:

Wettlaufer agrees to an unusual peace bond to remain in Woodstock under curfew, because there are police concerns she will “commit a personal injury offence.” One of her conditions is not to possess any drugs, including insulin.

Oct. 25:

Wettlaufer is charged with eight counts of first-degree murder in deaths at two longterm care homes, from 2007 to 2014, in Woodstock and London. Police say the residents died “after they were administered a drug,” but aren’t specific.

Oct. 28:

News reports point to an expanded police probe that includes Paris, Brantford and Port Dover, after police say they don’t believe there are more homicide victims.

Nov. 2:

Wettlaufer’s first court appearance in Woodstock, made by video from a detention centre in Milton.

Jan. 13, 2017:

Wettlaufer is brought to Woodstock where six more charges — four of attempted murder and two of aggravated assaults – are laid against her.

Search warrants obtained by The London Free Press show police had been investigating the additional charges from the start and point to insulin as the drug believed used in the case.

Jan. 24:

Police exhume two bodies — one in London, another in Innerkip — of two alleged victims for forensic examination.

Jan. 26:

The province orders Caressant Care in Woodstock, one of the homes where Wettlaufer worked, and where seven of the eight alleged murder victims lived, to halt all new admissions until it meets provincial standards.

The move comes after the home was cited for infractions under Ontario’s long-term care law, including more than 40 “medication incidents.”

March 25:

New information released in a redacted search warrant obtained by The Free Press reveals that Wettlaufer was fired from Caressant Care “for failing to follow insulin protocols” and had a history of giving the wrong medications to patients. Her firing comes just days after the last suspicious death at Caressant.

April 7:

Wettlaufer, in a route video court appearance, waives her right to a preliminary hearing, sending the case straight to trial.

April 21:

First appearance, in person, before the higher court.

June 1:

Enters guilty pleas to all 14 charges against her — eight of first-degree murder, four of attempted murder and two of aggravated assault.

June 26:

Ex-nurse sentenced to life in prison and province announces public inquiry

Aug. 1:

Justice Eileen Gillese appointed commissioner