TORONTO - Canada's largest veterans facility felt compelled to beef up security in light of the threatening response to a news article about police escorting the daughter of a vet from the building, a spokesman said Wednesday.
Craig DuHamel said staff at Sunnybrook Veterans Centre were particularly rattled by one online post, which offered $250 for the first person who punched a manager named in the story "square in the face" and broke "at least one bone."
"The staff are actually quite nervous as a result of the comments people have been posting online following much of the media attention," DuHamel said.
"When it crosses the line into threats of violence, it's very unsettling."
The above comment was taken down immediately after it was reported to the media outlet that carried the article.
DuHamel said police were called in.
"They said they were going to look into it and investigate," he said.
Police spokeswoman Const. Wendy Drummond confirmed the investigation but said she was unable to comment further.
Over the holiday season, The Canadian Press reported how Sunnybrook banned Jackie Storrison from the 500-bed facility, and had police escort her from the building.
Storrison, 61, is one of several relatives whose complaints about neglect and other sub-standard care of the most frail residents prompted the federal government to send inspectors to audit the facility.
In calling police, Sunnybrook said Storrison had been hostile and verbally aggressive to staff — something she denies. The two attending officers made no note of any untoward behaviour in helping two security guards show her out.
The article prompted heated comments on several online news sites, most critical of Sunnybrook's handling of Storrison and its care of veterans.
Storrison said she had not seen the offending post but understood Sunnybrook's concerns.
"I would certainly be worried," she said.
At the same time, Storrison said she was not surprised that passions had become heated because many relatives and caregivers feel Sunnybrook has been deaf to legitimate complaints and quick to retaliate against complainants.
The facility later rescinded its no-trespass order against a distraught Storrison, who said she felt humiliated and intimidated by what had happened, and by the ongoing presence of security when she visits her 91-year-old dad — something she has done almost daily without incident for three years.
Storrison noted no one at the centre asked for her side of the story either before or after she was kicked out. She was waiting to see whether mediation offered by Sunnybrook would go ahead.
Before being ordered to leave, Storrison had notified nursing staff about an elderly vet in danger of falling.
DuHamel said an investigation into another Storrison complaint — that she had spotted bedbugs in a resident's closet — showed the insect in question was a beetle.
Sunnybrook has always maintained its care is exemplary.