Saturday, February 21, 2009


Oldtown News
Vancouver, BC


Many of my readers may not know who Wendy Marlene Desjarlais is and I only met her once myself but her untimely death just one week ago needs to be recognized.

Wendy moved into the Pendera which is where I live. She moved here in October, 2008 and sadly her deceased body was discovered on Monday, Feb 16.

How I came to know of Wendy is through her sister Darla Hildebrant who I didn't previously know either. Darla lives in Red Deer, Alberta and contacted me about one month ago on Facebook.

Darla had learned that I lived where her sister now resided and wanted to know if I had seen her or knew of her. She was very worried about her sister who had fallen on very rough times. I hadn't met Wendy but a couple of days later after connecting with Darla, I met Wendy in the lobby of the Pendera. I just knew right away that this sad looking and dishevelled woman was the sister of Darla. She asked me for a smoke and I informed her that I didn't smoke and she shouldn't either. I said something like it's really bad for your health. I introduced myself and she said her name was Wendy and this confirmed to me that this was Darla's sister Wendy that I was speaking with.

Wendy chatted on about a number of problems she was having. I listened politely and while I was in a rush to a meeting, I mentioned to Wendy not to feel too discouraged and I hoped to see her again soon. Long and short, I didn't see her again but of course her life I desired to learn of.

When I learned of Wendy's passing on Monday, staff didn't know who to contact, however, I did.

I sent Darla a message on Facebook asking her to call me right away. She soon called from the legal office that she works at and I gave her the worst news a Sister has to hear. Darla was devastated and was going to leave work. We arranged that I would call her later at home. I also relayed that I would ask the Pendera Manager to contact her which he did. Together the two of us making contact with Darla was probably better than some cold impersonal call from the Vancouver Police.

Today the obituary for Wendy appeared in the Vancouver Sun and Winnipeg Free Press and when I saw the beautiful picture of Wendy I couldn't believe this was the same woman I had met in the lobby.

Here is her obituary:

WENDY MARLENE DESJARLAIS Wendy Marlene Desjarlais, born Wendy Hildebrant died suddenly on February 14th, 2009 in her Vancouver home. Wendy had accomplished many great things in her life starting with raising her greatest pride and joy, her son Qwin De Brant of 35 years. While raising Qwin she also put herself through school and became an accomplished nurse until she had an irreversible back injury. This however did not stop Wendy, she went back to University and obtained a degree in Criminology and Sociology. With this she pursued a career as a private investigator then went into social work in Winnipeg, Manitoba. In 1991 Wendy accepted her most recent position with the Ministry of Social Services for the province of British Columbia where she remained until she passed away at the age of 54. Wendy married Albert Desjarlais in 1989, and although short lived, the two of them always carried a special place in one another's hearts. Wendy is survived by her step-mom Nora Hildebrant, her siblings Darlene Hildebrant, Sharon Gareau, Leonard Hildebrant, Lorna Clutterham, and Sylvia Funk, along with her only child Qwin De Brant. Wendy was predeceased by father Menno John Hildebrandt, mother Helen Heinrichs, and siblings Janice and Pearl Hildebrant. Wendy was most known for her caring and empathetic characteristics. She would never hurt anyone and was always willing to help someone that she thought was in need. Wendy was extremely easy to talk to, and had no problems lending her ear for anyone who needed it. Wendy loved being near the ocean, and mountains, she always commented how beautiful and surreal everything was. Her life on Earth has since passed, though she is starting a whole new life where she can watch over all the people whose lives she touched in so many ways from above the clouds. Wendy will certainly be missed as a loving mother, sister, and best friend that anyone could hope to have. She will always be in our thoughts and memories with love and adoration.

So as people can see Wendy Desjarlais achieved many accomplishments in life. She assisted and took care of many people through her work with the Ministry of Children and Family Development.

So how did she ever wind up in the situation she currently found herself in?

Well I supect it was her love of helping people that most likely made her vulnerable. Perhaps she met someone who preyed on her vulnerabilities. I learned that she was known to the radical Anti Poverty Committee who obtained the suite for her at the Pendera. Many of their members are on the board of DERA and DERA operates the Pendera.

Even though I didn't know Wendy Desjarlais I just wish her life hadn't ended so tragically.

Many times Wendy reported being robbed and in fact she wasn't able to pay her rent since moving in which in itself is odd considering she had a very good pension from the Ministry where she worked.

Most likely Wendy was dealing with a host of issues which ultimately overtook and destroyed her. It is my hope and that of her sister Darla that something positive comes from her premature and preventable death.

Wendy obviously did not seek treatment as an option yet I am certain she had many clients over the yeas which she would have steered toward treatment and moreover, would have provided the funds for them to do so.

So a question is why didn't she seek treatment for herself?

Darla informs me that Wendy also had depression and she wasn't seeing a Counsellor either. Add to this her Hepatitis C and stuck in an imprisoned mind, too weak and incapable of making sound reasoned decisions and these factors sadly and tragically collaborated against her.

Wendy's tragic situation reminds me somewhat of Tracey, a homeless woman with mental health issues and drug addictions who caught on fire in December 2008 and burned to death on the street trying to stay warm.

Civil Libertarians and the VPD at that time said there is nothing anyone can do if someone chooses not to seek treatment.

At the time of Tracey's death I said that I don't believe that citizens have the constitutional right to burn themselves to death in public view and I didn't think citizens would accept this either.

With Wendy's death and even though she had a home, her circumstances still hadn't changed for the better. The only difference is that Wendy died indoors while Tracey died outdoors.

To me these two deaths mirror each other.

Wendy, like Tracey obviously couldn't make a reasoned decision to get help and this demonstrates that clearly she was not of sound mind. There is no other logical explanation for her inability to access support. Wendy though knew that she was going to die as she mentioned this to her sister Darla and to others.

The question though is whether Wendy's death or Tracey's for that matter are preventable?

Hepatitis C isn't a killer and neither is Depression unless of course they are left untreated. Both these diseases are very treatable and why anyone would choose not to seek treatment leaves concerning questions.

As i stated previously I don't believe people have the constitutional right to harm themselves and we must do whatever it takes to ensure these poor victims like Wendy and Tracey are provided with humane options which can assist them in getting better.

As I said back in December right after Tracey's death, in certain situations we must examine whether it's in the public interest to temporarily suspended an individual's civil rights in order to help them get better.

Wendy Desjarlais and Tracey I believe would be two of those situations where the state should have stepped in to assist these very troubled and sick women.

While I feel great sadness that Wendy Desjarlais has died and my sympathies lie with Darla Hildebrant and her family, I really hope people begin to hold politicians and other policy makers to account for these types of deaths.

Just because someone is poor, sick, troubled or homeless doesn't mean we just turn our backs on them or treat them as throw-a-ways.

I recall some people in influential positions making preposterous claims that these people have the constitutional right to make decisions which in effect are clearly harming them and I say hogwash to that type of distorted thinking.

RIP Wendy Marlene Desjarlais.

Jamie Lee Hamilton


At 1:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about everyone's right to self-determination? I am sure she knew she 'could' get treatment maybe she didn't want it.

You seem to be very highly critical of so many people and agencies. You are also highly judgemental. Why on earth would you tell someone not to smoke? Have you not enjoyed your own right to self-determination?

I have worked on the DTES for many years. You can give people all the information in the world and offer assistance and it is up to them to take it. That is what it means to live in a free and democratic society. We have the right to make our decisions and we are allowed agency in our lives.

Clearly the roots of the problem in the DTES extend far beyond its borders. We need to offer children safe homes, with a guaranteed level of income so that they all have the same opportunities. Until we eradicate poverty, ensure opportunity and show compassion to people the DTES will continue to exist in much the same form.

Besides criticizing those who do the very hard and heartbreaking work down there, what do you do?

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Jamie Lee Hamilton said...

Anonymous, it is because of people with ideas like yours that prevent progress in the Downtown Eastsaide.It is also telling that you spew your venom anonymously because chances are you don't want people to know that you write this crap or think this way.

Wendy obviously was not well enough to make sound decisions which would have benefitted her.

Instead of critisizing me, I actually tried to help her and stopped to talk with her when other people were using her. I also went to bat for her so she wouldn't be evicted. I also continue to keep in touch with her family and am doing my best to support her Sister.

Offering a solution which I have is not being judgemental.

With your writing though Anonymous this only re-inforces how much work needs to be done down here to counter the destructive aspects that many in the Povertarian industry, yourself included, heap on vulnerable people.

I do so much work down here and guess what I do it out of the kindness of my heart. Unlike you I'm not a bottom feeder that only does the work if they are paid for it.

I help people with shopping if they are sick, I advocate for people if they need advocacy, I write letters for people who are illiterate, I offer friendship and support to people, I walk with my neighbors and stand with them in difficult times, I treat everyone I meet with respect and I treat my neighbors as neighbors and not Clients. I advance equality for marginalized people and I even assist small businesses in the area so nice try Anonymous.

At 4:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow! You certainly make alot of assumptions about people.

You criticize the 'poverty' industry yet you partake of it by living in a DERA building. So you are a consumer. You also don't seem to get that people have the right to make their own decisions. What if resources were not available for you when you exercised you right to self-determination?

At 4:32 PM, Blogger Jamie Lee Hamilton said...

Anonymous, my parents helped create DERA and I helped create DERA's first housing co-op.

I have the right to live here as I had been on the waiting list since 1991 and in 2000 was offerred a suite. I have put in countless time volunteering and serving on the DERA board.

The building Pendera is a building geared to income which you don't seem to understand. That means poeople with all types of income live here. Obviously rich people don't.

Just because I live at the Pendera doesn't mean I need to be subservient to you people in the poverty industry. Your comment though just shows how nasty Povertarians are.

And Anonymous just because I live in the Pendera doesn't mean I should just shut my yap and be thankful for what I have which you seem to imply.

At 12:41 PM, Anonymous Darla said...

Wendy would of LOVED Jamie and she would of stood behind her 100%. Jamie helped so much and her heart is still in it! She has done more for Wendy and for me than the rest of my family. They all just sat back and mocked her! Thank you Jamie! Bless you!

Wendy's Sister Darla (Darlene)


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