Pembroke – After several delays, Rachel Sarazin, a 61-year old Pikwakanagan resident who was charged with manslaughter in connection with the November 6, 2023 death of her 58-year-old husband and who has remained in custody at the Ottawa Carleton Detention Centre (OCDC), appeared for a hearing last Friday (February 23) in the Pembroke courthouse to determine her suitability for release to a bail-bed residence.

Justice Jennifer Grant, who is presiding over Mrs. Sarazin’s application for release, informed all parties she would return with a decision on March 7.

Assistant/Crown Attorney Terri James built much of her argument around Mrs. Sarazin’s history of alcohol abuse and aggressive behavior and the inability of Lotus House to enforce aspects of her court order given her history of non-compliance.

When the hearing began, Ms. James questioned Kai Seymour, Manager of Residential Services at Lotus House in Ottawa, on the background, mandate, security protocols and programming at the facility. Mrs. Sarazin was notified in early December she was eligible to enroll at Lotus House, however at the time there were no beds available, which led to the ongoing delays for her to appear in person before a judge.

Ms. James stated the Crown was not in favour of releasing Mrs. Sarazin to Lotus House based on a lack of mandated programs to help her deal with history of excessive drinking. She stated Mrs. Sarazin has a history of aggression after excessive consumption of alcohol. She said these actions resulted in a previous charge of assault and the second charge of manslaughter for her alleged role in her husband’s death.

She also cited the lack of oversight and security if she is admitted to Lotus House. During her interview with Ms. Seymour it was revealed that upon entry to Lotus House, any resident is allowed to sign out at 9:00 a.m. and is not required to return until curfew. The residents wear a GPS ankle bracelet and they are unsupervised and although they are required to inform staff members of their whereabouts while away from the residence, the onus is on the resident to be truthful of their intentions.

If they fail to return by curfew a staff member will send an alert to police stating they are in violation of their conditions and if they are picked up by police, they are returned to OCDC. Ms. James inferred there is no guarantee Mrs. Sarazin’s absence would be noticed at curfew due to what she considered a lack of personnel on site to monitor her adherence to the set times.

“So, Mrs. Sarazin, who I would suggest suffers from addiction, is free to roam around downtown Ottawa and nobody is responsible for her whereabouts and she could be in a position to access alcohol,” Ms. James told the court. “She does not require permission to go anywhere and staff at Lotus House do not have the authority to tell her ‘no you can’t go there’ unless it is stated in her court order. There are no spot checks to verify that she is where she said she would be.”

During her questioning of Ms. Seymour, it was also revealed if a resident returns to the residence in a state of impairment they are sent to an unknown location until they have sobered up. They are then allowed to return to the residence and are not subject to immediate expulsion.

“So, if she wanted, Mrs. Sarazin can also purchase alcohol and hide it on her person because staff are permitted to check any bags brought into the residence but are not allowed to conduct a body search so she has the ability to consume alcohol in her room,” she added. “And if she is found to be impaired, she is sent away in a taxi and will return when she is sober and there are no consequences.”

Ms. James told the court if Mrs. Sarazin agreed to enter an addiction rehabilitation centre for a 60 or 90-day program and then was admitted as a resident to Lotus House, the Crown would take a much more supportive position to accommodate her conditional release. She added if Mrs. Sarazin developed a plan in this fashion and included a surety to assist her by providing transportation to appointments or provide overall emotional support to help her through her struggles, it could mean even greater support from the Crown Attorney’s Office.

Ms. James reminded the court that at the time she is alleged to have directly caused the death of her husband, she allegedly committed that offence following a different assault charge. She was charged stemming from an incident on October 1 while both were impaired. Neighbours contacted the OPP as they were concerned for Mr. Sarazin’s safety.

“Some neighbours heard what they thought was an unsafe situation for Mr. Sarazin due to the loud banging and noise coming from inside the Sarazin residence,” she said. “It was October 1 and they were so worried about Joe Sarazin’s safety that they tried to contact members of his family so they could assist him.

“They were not successful in contacting anyone so they did what we hope any good citizen would do. They called the police to check on Joe Sarazin to see if he was well and if he needed any help. The police come and check on Joe Sarazin and they were satisfied he was okay, but he was also impaired. The police informed the neighbours Joe Sarazin is okay but he is intoxicated.

“So, what did Rachel Sarazin do? She was mad because they called the police. God forbid anyone should call the police to check on Joe Sarazin.”

Ms. James said the neighbours left the area in order to allow things to cool down and when they returned, Mrs. Sarazin came out while intoxicated and began yelling and threatening them. She told the court the police were called and they charged Mrs. Sarazin with assault and a non-communication order was placed against Mrs. Sarazin. She had a court order to have no contact with one of the neighbours involved in the call to police.

“Despite the order, both Joe and Rachel Sarazin, who were both impaired came out yelling and damaged a fireplace all because the neighbours were worried about Mr. Sarazin’s safety and called the police. One month later Joe Sarazin is dead and Mrs. Sarazin is in jail.

“And now the plan is to have Mrs. Sarazin reside at Lotus House with no direct supervision and easy access to alcohol. It is not beyond reason to suggest she could be impaired and harm someone or use a cell phone that is not monitored and begin calling people to let them know exactly how she feels.”

Ms. James concluded her argument against her release to Lotus House by asking Justice Grant to deny her release based on her history.

“She has made no effort to deal with her addictions other than attending some AA meetings 30 or 40 years ago and she has a history of explosive and violent behavior while intoxicated. She has no community support and although she resided at Pikwakanagan, by all accounts she had no strong connection to anyone there except Joe Sarazin. She poses a threat to anyone around her.

“So, in my respectful submission, the onus and burden is on Mrs. Sarazin to produce a viable plan and she has failed to produce one and for that and all the other areas I have outlined, I would ask Your Honour to deny this application.”

Following defence counsel’s rebuttal of Ms. James’ argument for dismissal of the application, Justice Grant noted the time was 6:30 p.m. and she would be unable to render a verdict given the time restraints. All parties will return to the Pembroke courthouse at 10:30 a.m. on March 7 to hear Justice Grant’s ruling.