TORONTO - Prime Minister Stephen Harper publicly criticized correctional authorities on Thursday for their handling of a disturbed teenager who choked to death in her cell five years ago, prompting opposition accusations of federal government dishonesty.
The issue reached the House of Commons following the screening of disturbing jailhouse video at an inquest into the death of Ashley Smith this week that shows guards duct-taping her and drugging her against her will.
"The Ashley Smith case is obviously a terrible tragedy," Harper said.
However, information has come to light that shows Corrections Canada's behaviour was "completely unacceptable," he told the House of Commons.
Outside the Commons, Liberal Leader Bob Rae accused the Conservative government of being "dishonest."
"This is a government that wanted to stop the showing of those videos," Rae said.
"This is a government that, every step of the way, attempted to keep Canadians from seeing what went on."
While federal lawyers lost a court battle to keep the videos under wraps, they are still fighting to limit the scope of the inquest, which would block scrutiny of what happened to Smith in prisons outside Ontario.
Harper said he would let "arguments between lawyers" play out without interference.
Smith choked to death as guards looked on in October 2007 at a prison in Kitchener, Ont. She had spent the past year of her life in segregation, shunted among prisons in five provinces.
Also Thursday, Smith's family released documents their lawyer said showed a "shoddy" criminal investigation into how prison authorities in Quebec had treated Smith.
"When Ashley was alive, the system turned a blind eye to her and ultimately, she was abused right into death," lawyer Julian Falconer said.
"In the wake of her death, what you see is the family crying out for authorities to step in and investigate what on its face are different forms of torture, and the answer we get back is the same blind eye."
The probe followed a plea by her family to the RCMP that Smith had been restrained and given anti-psychotic and other drugs against her will without any legal or medical justification.
The RCMP, claiming it had no jurisdiction, passed the complaint to Quebec provincial police, who investigated three incidents in July 2007 at the federally-run Joliette prison in Montreal.
Prison authorities gave the investigating officer access to Smith's administrative file and surveillance videos, some of which were shown at the inquest into her death on Wednesday, but not to her medical file, according to the documents made available by the family.
The provincial police report found authorities used force on Smith "when she behaved contrary to regulation."
Smith was calm but her behaviour was "not in accordance with acceptable behaviour by an inmate," the report states.
While there may have been "deviations from internal procedure," they were minor, no excessive force was used, and the actions did not amount to anything criminal, the investigator concluded.
As to whether the use of sedatives was an abuse, police pointed the family at the College of Physicians.
A report by a psychiatrist, Dr. Beaudry, prepared for the correctional investigator, concluded there was no imminent risk to Smith's health or the safety of others.
Falconer called the Quebec police probe "embarrassingly shoddy." He noted police did not even look at Smith's medical file.
Clips screened at the inquest showed a nurse injecting Smith over her objections as half-a-dozen guards in full riot gear restrained her.
Although the family's complaints were made to the RCMP, the agency refused to look into the issues.
"Although you feel that the RCMP is the policing agency that should conduct an investigation of this nature, we respectfully disagree," RCMP Supt. Paul Bateman wrote to Falconer last year.
"Accordingly, we have recommended that you contact the police of local jurisdiction."
The family also asked for a criminal-negligence probe over management directives to guards at the Grand Valley prison in Kitchener where Smith died.
No charges were laid by Waterloo region police as a result of this request.
Guards were ordered not to enter Smith's segregation cell to remove any ligature around her neck unless she stopped breathing.
The result was Smith choked to death while guards did nothing.
Also on HuffPost
ThinkstockSeasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is most commonly associated with winter blues, and it afflicts about 5 percent of Americans. But for less than 1 percent of those people, this form of depression strikes in the summer. Warm weather depression arises when the body experiences a "delay adjusting to new seasons," says Alfred Lewy, MD, professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University, in Portland. Instead of waking and enjoying dawn, the body has a hard time adjusting, he says, which could be due to imbalances in brain chemistry and the hormone melatonin. More from Health.com: 10 Tips for Dating With Depression The Most Depressing States in the U.S. Depressing Jobs: Career Fields With Hight Rates of Depression
ThinkstockSmoking has long been linked with depression, though it's a chicken-or-egg scenario: People who are depression-prone may be more likely to take up the habit. However, nicotine is known to affect neurotransmitter activity in the brain, resulting in higher levels of dopamine and serotonin (which is also the mechanism of action for antidepressant drugs). This may explain the addictive nature of the drug, and the mood swings that come with withdrawal, as well as why depression is associated with smoking cessation. Avoiding cigarettes -- and staying smoke free -- could help balance your brain chemicals.
ThinkstockWhen the thyroid, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, doesn't produce enough thyroid hormone, it's known as hypothyroidism, and depression is one of its symptoms. This hormone is multifunctional, but one of its main tasks is to act as a neurotransmitter and regulate serotonin levels. If you experience new depression symptoms -- particularly along with cold sensitivity, constipation and fatigue -- a thyroid test couldn't hurt. Hypothyroidism is treatable with medication.
ThinkstockIt's no surprise that sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, but it could also increase the risk of depression. A 2007 study found that when healthy participants were deprived of sleep, they had greater brain activity after viewing upsetting images than their well-rested counterparts, which is similar to the reaction that depressed patients have, noted one of the study authors. "If you don't sleep, you don't have time to replenish [brain cells], the brain stops functioning well, and one of the many factors that could lead to is depression," says Matthew Edlund, M.D., director of the Center for Circadian Medicine, in Sarasota, Fla., and author of "The Power of Rest."
ThinkstockSpending too much time in chat rooms and on social-networking sites? A number of studies now suggest that this can be associated with depression, particularly in teens and preteens. Internet addicts may struggle with real-life human interaction and a lack of companionship, and they may have an unrealistic view of the world. Some experts even call it "Facebook depression." In a 2010 study, researchers found that about 1.2 percent of people ages 16 to 51 spent an inordinate amount of time online, and that they had a higher rate of moderate to severe depression. However, the researchers noted that it is not clear if Internet overuse leads to depression or if depressed people are more likely to use the Internet.
ThinkstockWhen something important comes to an end, like a TV show, movie, or a big home renovation, it can trigger depression in some people. In 2009, some "Avatar" fans reported feeling depressed and even suicidal because the movie's fictional world wasn't real. There was a similar reaction to the final installments of the Harry Potter movies. "People experience distress when they're watching primarily for companionship," said Emily Moyer-Gusé, Ph.D., assistant professor of communication at Ohio State University, in Columbus. With "Avatar," Moyer-Gusé suspects people were "swept up in a narrative forgetting about real life and [their] own problems."
ThinkstockYou can endlessly debate whether city or country life is better. But research has found that people living in urban settings do have a 39 percent higher risk of mood disorders than those in rural regions. A 2011 study in the journal Nature offers an explanation for this trend: City dwellers have more activity in the part of the brain that regulates stress. And higher levels of stress could lead to psychotic disorders. Depression rates also vary by country and state. Some states have higher rates of depression and affluent nations having higher rates than low-income nations. Even altitude may play a role, with suicide risk going up with altitude.
ThinkstockThe sheer number of options available -- whether it's face cream, breakfast cereal or appliances -- can be overwhelming. That's not a problem for shoppers who pick the first thing that meets their needs, according to some psychologists. However, some people respond to choice overload by maximizing, or exhaustively reviewing their options in the search for the very best item. Research suggests that this coping style is linked to perfectionism and depression.
ThinkstockLow intake of omega-3 fatty acids, found in salmon and vegetable oils, may be associated with a greater risk of depression. A 2004 Finnish study found an association between eating less fish and depression in women, but not in men. These fatty acids regulate neurotransmitters like serotonin, which could explain the link. Fish oil supplements may work too; at least one study found they helped depression in people with bipolar disorder.
ThinkstockAlthough unhappy relationships with anyone can cause depression, a 2007 study in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that men who didn't get along with their siblings before age 20 were more likely to be depressed later in life than those who did. Although it's not clear what's so significant about sibling relationships (the same wasn't true for relationships with parents), researchers suggest that they could help children develop the ability to relate with peers and socialize. Regardless of the reason, too much squabbling is associated with a greater risk of developing depression before age 50.
ThinkstockLike any medication, the pill can have side effects. Oral contraceptives contain a synthetic version of progesterone, which studies suggest can lead to depression in some women. "The reason is still unknown," says Hilda Hutcherson, M.D., clinical professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Columbia University, in New York. "It doesn't happen to everyone, but if women have a history of depression or are prone to depression, they have an increased chance of experiencing depression symptoms while taking birth control pills," Dr. Hutcherson says. "Some women just can't take the pill; that's when we start looking into alternative contraception, like a diaphragm, which doesn't contain hormones."
ThinkstockDepression is a side effect of many medications. For example, Accutane and its generic version (isotretinoin) are prescribed to clear up severe acne, but depression and suicidal thoughts are a potential risk for some people. Depression is a possible side effect for anxiety and insomnia drugs, including Valium and Xanax; Lopressor, prescribed to treat high blood pressure; cholesterol-lowering drugs including Lipitor; and Premarin for menopausal symptoms. Read the potential side effects when you take a new medication, and always check with your doctor to see if you might be at risk. More from Health.com: 10 Tips for Dating With Depression The Most Depressing States in the U.S. Depressing Jobs: Career Fields With Hight Rates of Depression