The mental abuse of Patrick Clayton ....
...At the hand of a dirty Workers Compensation System & there are many , many more Mr Clayton's right across Canada. ( Some democracy...some political system , isn't it?
It was six thirty on a Thursday night when I walked into the prisoners visiting area at the Remand Centre in downtown Edmonton and took my first look at Patrick Clayton who was dressed in the telltale blue prison issue coveralls and was sitting on the other side of the glass partition.
The man who I had spoken to on the phone on two previous occasions sported a brush cut haircut and was much older looking then I expected. The bags under his eyes hinted at the likelihood of many sleepless nights since he lost his freedom two weeks prior as a result of the much publicized hostage taking incident at the Workers Compensation Board (WCB) building at 9912 107 Street.
I instinctively picked up the visitor telephone and greeted him with "Hello Patrick, how are you?" to which he responded "Well, I've had better days".
I nodded my appreciation of what I felt he meant by that statement and then over the course of the next 45 minutes I set out to dig deeper into trying to understand who really was Patrick Clayton the man, the son, the father and the brother. More importantly, I was interested in learning the circumstances that caused him to bring a loaded 6.5 Weatherby hunting rifle into the WCB at 8:30 A.M. and take nine people hostage on that fateful Wednesday morning.
"Why did you do it Patrick?" I bluntly asked to which he blurted out his response almost instantaneously "I just got sick and tired of being treated like a piece of crap by WCB". When asked to elaborate on this he went on to tell me about a six year period of what he described as a "roller coaster ride" relationship with WCB of claim approval followed by claim denial and then benefit reinstatement followed by more claim denial, and on and on it went. "I never knew where I was going to stand with them from one day to the next, all that uncertainty was nerve racking and constantly wearing me down."
He told of the time a little over two years ago when WCB once again cut off his $496.03 a month benefits which he claimed seriously hampered his ability to continue with his biweekly visitation rights with his only son Brandon who was four years old at the time. "Brandon is my whole life and if I can't afford to be with him even if only for a short time and take him places and try to be a good father to him then my life ain't worth spit" he said and quickly turned away so I wouldn't see the tears that were starting to well up in his eyes.
After he had composed himself he went on to further tell me about how he then climbed to the top of the High Level Bridge and contemplated ending his life. "I sat there for about an hour but just couldn't build up the nerve to do it" he remarked, almost seeming to be apologizing to me for not having the guts to kill himself.
Eventually he was noticed by a passerby, whereupon the police and ambulance were called and after a three hour standoff he was coaxed down from the bridge and whisked off to the Royal Alexander for a psychological evaluation. After convincing the doctor that he had no intentions of hurting himself he was allowed to go home.
"I told the police and the doctor about my problems with WCB but it seemed like nobody cared, nobody gave a dam" he continued. Then, almost as an afterthought, he added "I received the bill for the ambulance which I still haven't been able to pay", Since that time he managed to keep it together for awhile with the help of friends and family, sleeping a few nights on somebody's couch here and there in wintertime, in the back of a car in summertime, borrowing money and collecting recyclables to make ends meet. This went on until the roller coaster ride with WCB reinstated his benefits once again.
Then in early October of 2009, he found himself again in all too familiar and similar circumstances. His benefits had once again been cut off by WCB who told him that his file was pending "further review" and he was told by Social Services that he didn't qualify for assistance because he still had an active file with WCB that hadn't been officially closed.
To all outward appearances it seemed that he had again fallen through the cracks of various governmental support systems and he saw his life once again spiraling out of control.
Out of survival instinct, he says he tried to do very physically demanding work as a concrete finisher with his brother's employer but the leg injury that had caused him to apply for WCB benefits in the first place made this next to impossible. He remembers limping home from work after long and grueling days and having to bathe his leg for long periods to bring down the swelling and lessen the pain and discomfort he was experiencing.
"I was miserable, I was in constant pain and I was again having problems being able to visit with Brandon on a regular basis. I felt that I was at the end of my rope. I didn't know what else to do or who I could turn to for help", he revealed.
So it was against this backdrop and with a mindset which he feels was born out of depression, frustration and desperation that 37 year old Patrick Charles Clayton gathered up the 6.5 Weatherby hunting rifle that previously belonged to his recently deceased grandfather and headed for the WCB building in downtown Edmonton on October 21, 2009.
"I don't even remember how I got there, I just remember feeling numb and that my life was over and this was going to be my last day alive. I thought that I had already lost everything including Brandon, and that I didn't have anything else to lose except my life. He stopped to reflect for a moment and then continued "I fully expected that before the end of the day I was going to lose that as well."
According to news reports, once inside the building he fired a single shot into a cinder block wall. No one was hurt by this round and there is no evidence that he intended to hit anyone. He then reportedly ordered people into the elevator and took them to the eighth floor. Once there, he locked himself and nine hostages inside a conference room. "I never had any intentions of hurting any of those people, I just wanted for someone to listen to my story and for someone to help me", he stated.
He further went on to describe how he had one of the male hostages compile a list of names and cell phone numbers so that their families could be told that they were doing well and not in any danger. According to news reports he then called 911 and provided the police with this information. He also reportedly immediately released a male hostage when it was discovered that the man had a preexisting medical condition.
"I reassured everyone that I had no intentions to hurt anyone, and we sat around the table and I told them my story as best as I could. Some of the women were crying which made me feel really bad but I told them that I was soon going to let them go", he explained.
Over the course of the next nine hours the hostages were allowed to leave one by one under different circumstances, some in exchange for food and cigarettes from the police, others when they said they had to go to the bathroom.
"Two of the ladies said they had to go to the washroom and I said yes, go ahead. I knew that they weren't coming back because the tactical squad would surely take them away, but I didn't care, I just wanted to show everyone that I wasn't a danger to anyone".
When asked about the truth of news reports about him giving his personal belongings to one of the hostages so that in the event of his death at the hands of police they could be given to his son, he nodded in the affirmative. "I fully expected as some point that the police would bust in and start shooting and I would be carried out in a body bag. I wanted Brandon to have something to remember his father by", he claimed.
At 6:18 P.M., however, the ordeal ended peacefully when he surrendered to police after being in constant contact with a police negotiator for most of the day. He was taken into custody and was eventually charged with nine counts of unlawful confinement, six counts of pointing a firearm, possession of an offensive weapon dangerous to the public, careless use or storage of a firearm and use of a firearm during the commission of an offence.
When I asked him if he had anything to say to anybody about what happened he asked me to tell other WCB claimants who found themselves in similar circumstances as him that "I rocked the boat for them" and he hoped that in some small way he was able to bring attention to their plight and make things better for them.
I then asked him if he had anything to say to the hostages and his reply was "I feel sorry for what they went through and I hope that in time they will forgive me and try to understand what drove me to do something so drastic".
I finally asked him if he was able to see Brandon since his arrest and that is when he couldn't control himself any longer and the floodgates of his held back, pent up tears opened wide and he began to cry a river of tears uncontrollably with his hands covering his face.
Feeling uncomfortable, awkward and somehow responsible for asking what was maybe a dumb question, I started to speak into the telephone that I was sorry only to realize that the line was dead, the time limit had expired, the visit was over and I then watched as Patrick Clayton walked away, swallowed up by the prison system that now was in complete control of his life that he had tried so hard to avoid.
Written by William Day - CLASS Canada